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Wilderness Adventures - Feb., Week 3/2009

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.


23/02/2009 7:30 PM

The Long Pause

Hi folks. My apologies for no articles for the last couple of days. Unfortunately, I've been given a good sized project on a very short deadline so that trend is probably going to continue. I don't see myself being able to write much for a few days, even though there's things to write about. A hard grind trail breaking Saturday, and a failed ride wandering around the mountains toward Wilderness Lake in very tough conditions. Hard packed and no snow. There's supposed to be some great pictures and some videos coming from the owners of the store and their company this weekend, but that's going to have to wait.
We got a couple of inches of snow yesterday evening and it was pretty gloomy all day, as was yesterday. Saturday was a beauty though and our temperatures actually made it to 8C or over 46 degrees Fahrenheit. It made it a couple of degrees above freezing yesterday and was still only -3C when I went to bed last night. However, that's supposed to change in a hurry. There's an arctic high sweeping down from the north and an ugly low pressure system coming in from Washington State. Wherever they meet there's supposed to be some serious moisture, either snow or rain depending on where you are. Our temperatures are supposed to nose dive over the next few days so that will crisp things up a bit.
Okay, gotta go, back in a few days. I'm sorry about that folks.

20/02/2009 7:20 PM

Winter Recreation

Our weather is still perfect for winter recreation of all kinds. Yesterday was just unbelievable. It was the kind of day where you just didn't want to be in the house. There was no wind, the sun was shining, but I figured the surface temperature would still be cool enough to ski down the lake without the snow sticking to the bottom, end result being face plants on my part.
Conditions in our bay were perfect with only a thin layer of snow on a hard crust so laying a track was a breeze. Out on the main arm it was a little more windblown, and farther down the lake the snow was deeper and crustier, so a little tougher. Since I didn't know when I would next get a chance to ski, instead of breaking a trail I might not use again, I decided to take the easy way out and followed a snowmobile track. As a result, I made it all the way down to Dot Island and sat there on a dock for awhile and just enjoyed the warmth and the sunshine before heading back. It's only a six mile round trip, but since it's only my second time out on skis this year, I was pretty happy with the run. Especially since I figured long unused muscles would be protesting loudly by the time I got home.
I stopped off at the neighbour's skating rink where they had a merry fire going on the ice next to a picnic table, and lots of good company to BS with. It seemed everyone was out to make maximum use of the great weather by either walking, skiing, skating, or going snowmobiling. It's a good thing most of us don't hold 9 to 5 jobs that we have to be in attendance for every day because employee production would not have scored well yesterday. Or even today for that matter.
It's still getting down pretty good at night but daytime temps are still coming up to freezing and a couple of degrees above. The cold temperature at night is what is helping us to keep our snow which is really nice. Andy was grooming the snowmobile trail from Dot Island to the Hooch today and the snow warmed up enough to fill in those stutter bumps quite nicely, but none melted. That's often a problem we have when it warms up is that we lose all of our snow, but this is perfect.
Right now we've got to get planning in the works for our annual Poker Run while conditions are still so good. If we wait for too long we could just as easily be running sleds on dirt if things warm up too much in the next month.
I decided to go for a long walk instead of a ski today and was just about down to a T-shirt by the time I got back. I think our neighbours spent most of the day at their skating rink today after going out for ski in the backwoods this morning. I know they were telling me yesterday that they've been sun tanning on their deck every day.
Tomorrow will be a long day. The store owners' family came to visit and went snowmobiling up on Trumpeter yesterday and today with the kids but tomorrow they want to help clear trail. We've still one trail that no one has been over yet and it hasn't been cleared of any blowdown that may have fallen since last year. It can be a dirty, nasty trail if there are any obstructions because you can't turn around and go back up the hill very easily once you start down it. I love clearing trail but everyone wants to come, including the store owners' company, which is going to make it a very big, very awkward group. The likelihood of less experienced riders getting stuck on the trail is good, so as I said, it's going to be a long day.
I would really like to go on the ride being arranged for Wilderness Lake on Sunday, but it sounds like conditions up there are really ugly. Wayne went up a week ago and blowing wind, lack of snow, and ice, make it a very unpleasant trip from the sounds of it. Still, the store owners have decided they want to take their company up there and have talked Logan into guiding them. That might be a little dicey because I don't think he's that familiar with the trail and is expecting to follow old snowmobile tracks. That might not work with the windy conditions up in that country so I hope everyone takes extra food and matches!
Our weather is supposed to break down here pretty quickly. We might be able to squeak one more nice day out of Mother Nature but by Sunday it's supposed to be snowing and the outlook for the Lower Mainland is ominous for all of next week. The weather forecasters are calling for a cold front to come in with a low out in the Pacific so who knows how messy it will get. The jet stream is suddenly riding well to the north again which normally brings us warmer weather but it certainly hasn't this winter. When it does that it also seems to create inversion layers that melt snow up at higher elevations and sock in the valleys with fog or low cloud so I guess we'll just see what happens.

18/02/2009 6:36 PM

Rumbles

Three for three! We had another great day with clear skies, lots of sunshine, and by this afternoon, pretty warm temperatures.
We're gradually warming up by a degree or so every day. It only dropped to -20C or -4F last night. Nothing like a few nights ago when the construction wood in the house and any metal outside was popping and snapping. That always happens with temperature extremes. When it's warm during the day and then it cools down drastically at night, wood makes a cracking sound while metal pops as it contracts. It's most noticeable when it hits 40 or 50 below Fahrenheit. If you stand outside you'll hear the trees cracking like gunshots and many will snap off or split down the trunk from top to bottom. Trees are just like the ice in an ice cube tray. The cells of a tree are full of moisture and when it freezes, it expands. Eventually, the cell walls snap because of too much expansion and when enough do it at a time, the tree breaks.
In any case, no snapping or popping of all things expandable last night but the lake was certainly rumbling. All night outside you could hear that low grumbling below the ice and of course when the surface starts warming up under the sun during the day, it really rumbles!
Andy was skating over at the neighbour's rink today and he said there's some pretty good cracks running through the rink and the ice seems to be floating higher in the middle. It makes sense. The ice will grow thicker where there is no snow insulating it from the cold. It's bound to float higher while the edges will be held down by the weight of the snow on the surrounding ice, but I can definitely see how the contrast would cause stress to the ice. Especially since the black rink ice, versus white snow, is going to attract more heat during the day, yet freeze harder at night. Geez... before they know it they'll have to skate uphill to get to the middle of the rink. :-)
It got up to 3C or 37F today. I actually didn't believe the initial temperature reading so I took the outside sensor down and put it where I knew it was cool and completely shady. Out in full sun the other thermometers were reading ten degrees higher and I could sure tell it on my walk today. I wore way too many layers as usual, and was it ever warm with no wind and that sun beating down!
You can tell the critters in the woods like the weather too because they're moving around a lot more. A small herd of wild horses went through a couple of days ago. Technically, they're not wild because the Indians own them but since they're generally left out year round to fend for themselves, and few are ever brought in for training, then I consider them wild. They messed up parts of the backwoods trail anyway because they broke through the crust on the snowmobile trail and left big holes in their wake. They also left another gift both there and on the road....a dog's favorite treat.... horse apples! That meant keeping a vigilant eye out not just on Cat, but all the mutts. Since the horses deposited their apples on the road, and the grader came along after, broke up and scattered little treats the entire length of the road, the dogs thought they had died and gone to heaven. So rather than enjoy my peaceful reverie, I would end up chasing first one dog, then another, away from their various prizes of all sizes.
That must be why I never went for dog kisses much. I know what those rotten slobs put in their mouths!
17/02/2009 6:56 PM

Glorious Day Two

We've been blessed with yet another glorious day. I know I probably sound smug but I really don't mean to. It actually was a day to write home about.
At 23.5C or -10F, it didn't get quite as cold last night as the night before but it was a little slow to warm up this morning because there was a touch of high haze. However, once it got going, Wow Wee! When I went for a walk at noon it was -7C and when I got back an hour and a half later, it was two degrees above zero. There was hardly a breath of wind and with that sunshine, it would have been a great day for a tan which is pretty much what the guys were doing up on the mountain today.
Our good friend, Henry, is up from the Island for the rest of the winter now and wanted to get out snowmobiling today. It was guy's day out and six of them went for a ride to pretty much all the same places as we went a couple of days ago. Where the wind was bitter the other day on Ptarmigan Flats on the other side of Goat Pass, Andy said it was dead calm and so warm in the sun that they were napping on their snow machines! Unfortunately, he forgot the camera so I have no pictures from today. It's too bad because clear days are the best for good pics. At least this time Andy didn't take a header.
I was riding close behind him up the Autobahn on Sunday and he was in the powder off the trail going hell bent for leather when suddenly both he and his machine went flying. I'm going..."What the heck???" as I tried to get parked and over to him as soon as possible. His machine was on its side and his nose was bleeding at a great rate. We got his machine righted and then tried to figure out what the heck had happened. About 40 feet back he had hit a monstrous, white, blunt faced rock hidden under the snow and it had launched both him and the machine in the air. The machine landed at about the 30 foot mark and then bounced and flew for another 10 feet or so, throwing Andy off. Another rider came back in time to cut down a tree that we could plant in front of the rock to flag it. The last thing we would need is for someone following Andy's tracks to not see the rock and really hurt themselves or punch the nose in on their machine in future. Either way, I don't think the experience slowed Andy down much. It never does.
I noticed today that we had a huge sun dog around the sun this afternoon. That can often mean a change in weather but the weather forecasters say we've got a couple more days of this before the high pressure system over the province starts breaking down. Suits me. I could handle weather like this into the end of March! Speaking of March....did you know that we get our time change on March 8? I'm so excited! I love Daylight Savings Time. Actually, I don't, because I think it should stay that way all the time but at least if we have to go off it, it's nice that we get to go back on it so soon. Andy's down at the mouth about it of course, because he's a morning person and likes that sun beaming into his eyeballs in the middle of the night. I, on the other hand, would much rather have light later in the evening. It's good that there's such a variety of people in this world with some opposite personality traits. It certainly makes for interesting relationships!

16/02/2009 6:28 PM

Blue Skies Everywhere

We enjoyed an absolutely stunning day, today and it looks as though the rest of the province did as well.
Temperatures hit -25C or 13 below Fahrenheit this morning but came up pretty fast in the sun today. It was -5C when I left to go for my walk but I was flabbergasted to see it had warmed up to two degrees above freezing by the time I got home. That's just an amazing rise in temperature but I like it! It really is the best part of winter because even if you get cold temperatures the sun throws down a lot of heat this time of year. Besides, love those cobalt blue skies. Other than in the southwest, that is.
Andy and I sat and discussed the sky at the dinner table last night as the sun went down behind a bit of a dirty haze lying low behind the mountains. I know I never saw that when I was out in this country before in the late 80's and early 90's. When it was cold in the winter, the sky would be that clean, clear blue right down to the horizon like I've never seen anywhere else. And even now the sky seems to look clear everywhere except in that one direction.
In the summer, you have to expect there to be haze on the horizon just from forest fires burning throughout western North America. And one year, apparently we were even seeing dust storms in China that caused a haze to the south and west.
In winter you expect some slash burning on landings in fall and early winter to be the cause of some haze on the horizon. Wood smoke from people in the area that heat with it is bound to cause some low lying haze as well. The mill always put off quite a bit of smoke from its two antiquated burners but this year it hasn't been operating. That leaves the only possible local pollution to be wood smoke from stoves and there just would not be enough to create a haze, especially only in one direction. Since our predominant winds are from the south and west, the air in that direction should be the clearest because the smoke we created would be blowing away from us. There's certainly nothing else in that direction but one big mountain range and ocean.
Andy and I both decided that we've seen a build up over the years, even though most people not familiar with the area would probably never notice the haze. Certainly I know that everyone that comes to visit comments on how beautiful our clear, blue skies are. Knowing the winds and the nearest pollution sources, we know it's not coming from Vancouver or from mills from the north. Vancouver is south and slightly east of us and it makes sense that southerly winds might bring its pollution to our skies, but most of the city's pollution gets blown east, right down the Fraser Valley. I noticed that when I lived down there for a very short while as well as when I've traveled there. Even though there was little in the way of manufacturing there at that time, the air in the Valley would be a dirty Los Angeles yellow, while Vancouver would be blown clean by a west wind. I used to feel sorry for Fraser Valley residents. They lived in a beautiful valley of mostly farm country with what should normally be clean, clear skies, and here they're sucking on Vancouver's smog.
Andy and I wondered if our slight haze on the horizon isn't coming in from China. While it's possible it could be California's smog because of the shape of the coast line, wind and air currents, and the fact that state is actually southwest of us, it seems the smog should have been there all along then, even 20 years ago. It's true that we get California's forest fire smoke in the summer but our winds are more likely to be from the southeast then. But a buildup of manufacturing pollution in China's new 'Industrial Revolution' would certainly explain why it's become more noticeable over the years. It's just a matter of knowing whether the Jet Stream and trade winds would carry pollution for that distance and from that direction. Then again, maybe everywhere has haze. As Andy mentioned, there's soot and ash found in the far north where there's no such thing as pollution on the ground, so who knows? I guess you have to look at the bright side. It helps to give us some wonderful sunsets. Otherwise, all of our sky would always look like that picture on the bottom right. And that would just be boring, wouldn't it? :-)

15/02/2009 6:50 PM

The Rough Ride

We went snowmobiling up to Trumpeter today and the trail right from Dot Island on Nimpo Lake all the way up to Goat Lake was really rough. Unfortunately, at Christmas time and at ice cutting we get a group of people that come out here and beat the hell out of the trails with their snow machines. It's not because of the number of people. We ride in numbers all winter long and never beat up the trails. But this particular group has a number of bottom feeders that think gunning the throttle on their machine is cool. Doing so instead of maintaining a steady pressure on the throttle creates what we call 'stutter bumps'. These are awkward bumps every couple of feet all the way up the trail. You can't avoid hitting them and they absolutely wreck your back. Unfortunately for us, these morons come up only twice a year, for a few days each time, but completely wreck the trail for the entire season for all of us. And this year is the very worst I've ever seen it. It might not be so bad if you didn't know who was doing it and couldn't blame much more but air, but we do know. The worst part about it is they aren't all hot dog twenty somethings, although two are kids of fathers that are the very worst offenders. I'm not sure what these jerks think is cool about burping your throttle but we've seen them doing it across the lake. We don't care about that so much because there's lots of space on the lake. You don't have to drive in the holes they've created. But on a narrow trail you have no choice. In addition to that, the trails they've wrecked are the ones we've improved. The only good runs we had today were on trails that they don't know about. I think it's about time to just build new trails and block them off when we know that bunch is here. It's a shame really and just about the best example of inconsiderate behaviour as any I can think of.
Today was a remarkable day. Clear as clear could be but it was definitely cold starting out this morning. It was -12C or 10F when we left and was pretty decent in the sun by the time we hit Goat Lake. We got a look at the ice blocks blasted out by the avalanche but unfortunately a recent four inch snow covered a lot of them up. Boy, I would love to have seen that explosion! From a safe distance, of course.
Once we climbed out of Goat Pass, the temperature got colder the higher we went and there was just enough of a breeze to take the windchill values down quite a bit. Even in the sun you didn't want to be sitting still for any length of time in the open but it was nice in the trees. It was -3C when we got home at around four this afternoon but it's dropping fast tonight and is already back down to -13C. According to the forecasters, that arctic high is expected to continue sinking south in the next few days so we'll see cold temperatures and sunshine. I guess we'll see if they're right! In the meanwhile, I guess we'll need to get some more wood in. We've a whole wood shed full but Andy likes to leave that alone and go get standing beetle kill when we need wood.
Apparently last night's fundraiser in Anahim Lake was a great success with items autographed by Cary Price going for a good dollar as well as a trip out onto the ocean for some fishing. The local constabulary were super and made a great effort to be a part of this community event rather than part of the problem. That may explain the tremendous turnout compared to last year.
As you can see, I've started a new week and you'll find last week's articles, including those of a bush pilot that's been in this country for a lot of years, 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!


Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Sunbeam in the sky at sunrise.
 
Standing at 24km.
 
Looking at the Rainbow Mountains.
 
Red jacketed rider turns snowmobile in powder.
 
Powder snow kicked up by snowmobile turning.
 
Going up alpine toward Trumpeter Mountain.
 
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