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
Wilderness Adventures - Feb., Week 3/2009
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The Long Pause
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
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
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.
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
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!
Glorious Day Two
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!
Blue Skies Everywhere
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,
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
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
The Rough Ride
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 .
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!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!