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Wilderness Adventures - Feb., Week 3/2014

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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20/02/2014 11:00 AM

The Freddy Flintstone Mobile

So far our weather has been holding with nothing for snow yet. We have had sunshine for the past few days but cloud often moves in by afternoon. There seems to be one system after another coming in from the Pacific affecting the Lower Mainland and higher mountain passes throughout BC but thankfully, they have been missing us other than for the winds.
The Coquihalla has been closed off and on for the past week due to high snow levels and avalanche danger. It is open now but highways recommends no one travel it. I saw one of the photos of the highway and I’m not sure how you could travel it. And of course, the TransCanada highway near Revelstoke has been closed on several occasions for the past six weeks because of avalanche, the last just a couple of days ago.
I’m actually surprised at the massive snow loads on the Coquihalla this year. The area gets a lot of snow most winters but the snow received in just the past couple of days amounted to nearly six feet if our conversion from metric to standard is correct. That’s a lot of white stuff! There has also been numerous accidents in the past month on that highway so I think I’m glad we haven’t had any reason to travel it. I wouldn’t anyway as bad as it’s been.
We went out for a little snowmobile ride and wiener roast yesterday with interesting results. We had a friend up from California that purchased his own machine two winters ago to keep in Nimpo, but he brought two friends of his own up for the week this time as well. They borrowed machines from the resort owner across the way and I think we’re all in shock and awe that these poor sleds are still even moving because I’m pretty sure that one of them predates Moses. I know that they have been pushed and pulled up many hills going to Trumpeter in years past so it was a relief to know we were only going for a short, easy day ride east of the highway. Our friend Dawn knew of a great little trail that we could go on toward Lilly Lake where we could all stop for a wiener roast and play around in the snow in the meadow. We packed up the necessities and off we went with another friend from down the lake who is an experienced rider.
Dawn took a wrong turn and ended up following a well packed trail that wound around a few little tight spots before she realized she was on a trail that hadn’t been there last week. One of our new riders was getting stuck a lot so I was a little hesitant about turning around in the sugar snow, but Dawn and myself took the turn to pack a trail as did one of the new riders with no problem. Then came the fella that was getting stuck and sure enough, he did again, and again, and again on the same turn. It didn’t make any sense because he was doing everything right but he had two very experienced riders and his friend behind him to make sure he kept coming, so once he was out we continued on our way. I stopped quite a way up the trail when I realized I only had one rider behind me and we waited for a while. Finally, I sent him on ahead to tell Dawn something seemed to be up while I walked back to see what was what. I came down a hill and around the bend to see the new fellow’s old borrowed machine on the operating table. Apparently, the reason why he was getting stuck was his ski was turning circles. In other words, unbeknownst to everyone, the piece of metal that keeps the ski pointing forward was broken so there was no way he could turn or even control his machine. No one realized it until the final time they were trying to get him unstuck they tried to find his ski under the snow to pull on it and realized it was pointing the wrong way. Poor man. And here all this time he thought it was him.
By the time I arrived the guys had cut and notched a sapling on both ends to fit between the ski members, then tied the skis tightly together using the sapling as a spacer. It looked like a Freddy Flintstone mobile but it worked like a hot darn.
Thanks for letting us take your photos, Mike! Andy actually rode it home with our neighbour following him to make sure he made it, and brought one of our own machines back up while the rest of us continued on our way. As our neighbour mentioned, there’s nothing like having to MacGyver something to make the day a good one.
We ended up out on a meadow near Lilly Lake ranch but the wind was blowing pretty wildly so we retreated back to the edge of the trees where we were still in the sun but out of the wind and started our fire thanks to Dawn packing up dry wood in her skimmer. We had a great wiener roast, told stories, took a little tour around the area, spotted some trails I would like to investigate some day, and then headed home. It wasn’t a long day but our inexperienced fellows wouldn’t have found a long day pleasant. I think they’d had enough exertion for one day. For that matter, even Andy and I could feel the ride a bit because neither of us have been out yet this year. I don’t think tracking ski and walking trails really counts as riding.
We have another beautiful day today with temperatures at nearly freezing already but high wind again, as usual. I have no idea why we’re getting our March winds in February but I guess there’s a reason. Our temperature didn’t even get that cold last night, probably because it didn’t clear off until well after midnight. It sounds like we missed some great northern lights a couple of nights ago. I usually take a quick glance out the window before going to bed but I went to bed early that night and missed it all. Bummer. We’re sure not getting them over this part of BC much this year. Andy has an app on his iPad that shows where they usually are and most of the time, they are north and east of us more often in eastern Canada or over northern Russia and Norway. We just aren’t holding our mouths right, I guess. I miss seeing them, though.
We have an arborist up from Bella Coola to top a couple of trees in our yard. We were lucky to have heard about him from our neighbour who also needed a tree done so he came on down here after finishing there. We have a big old swamp spruce in the yard near the water’s edge that we normally wouldn’t bother about except that after that big wind storm back in 2008 it, the roots came up and it started a dangerous lean toward my newly built greenhouse. Andy has had it cinched back to the tree behind it with a come-a-long for years now, which helped to bring the roots back down but we don’t know if the roots could reattach themselves sufficiently to save the tree in a high wind. We figure if we get it topped, we won’t have to worry. The wind won’t effect it nearly so much without a heavy, branch laden top on it, and it won’t hit the greenhouse if it does come down. There’s a big old pine next to it, one of the few that escaped the pine beetle attack in 2006, that we would like topped as well. It has a schoolmarm halfway up and another near the top, so if even half of the top one was taken out, what’s left shouldn’t be affected too much by the wind. If it is, I think it will still take out the greenhouse but cutting it lower will probably kill it. Old pines don’t seem to react as well to being cut as spruce does. Spruce usually just gets thicker provided this one isn’t cut too low…..
Just got back inside and our arborist just did a terrific job of both trees. I especially like how the spruce looks. I think it will thicken right up but shouldn’t cause any danger to the greenhouse now. The pine was big and scraggly looking, starved of light for years by the spruces behind it, so it doesn’t look great cut, but the arborist did leave the smaller part of the schoolmarm, so it will continue to grow and will probably thicken right up eventually. In the meanwhile, its bigger sister is now on the ground and only feet away from the greenhouse. So that’s another one we no longer have to worry about. Not to mention the light it lets into the yard. Man, I am really pleased with how things look now.
For anyone out in this area that needs one, this arborist is from Bella Coola and owns Bear Claw Contracting. He’s an experienced feller and licensed arborist and does an awesome job so if you need someone locally, this is your man. If you want his contact information just give me a call or drop an email.
A mini-blizzard moved in about the time the arborist was just finishing up, then it cleared and the sun was shining, and now as I am ready to post this, there’s a nasty, cold wind, the clouds have moved in, the temperature is dropping and it looks like it wants to snow again. It’s going to be really hard to make myself go out there for a walk today….

17/02/2014 8:20 PM

The Snow Still Hasn't Come

Well, here we are, still waiting for that snow that forecasters have been calling for in the past week. We still haven’t gotten much other than a skiff here and there and I’m okay with that. I’m sure snowmobilers would like to see more but there’s lots for sledding if you don’t get off the trail into the stumps and such. I guess there’s about four feet of snow on the trail up to Goat Pass but apparently the pass itself is impassable. I guess warm weather and these winds have swept the pass clear of snow so you can’t get in over the rocks. That pretty much closes off the entire Trumpeter drainage for snowmobiling unless you have machines that can break trail up the back side and I don’t know anyone that wants to be stuck that much. Instead, we’re going to do a little trail riding elsewhere this week and have a little old fashioned wiener roast with friends when we do it.
Andy and I went snowshoeing in the back woods yesterday and trust me, there’s lots of snow if you don’t need to do a bunch of hill climbing with your sled! I’m still trying to break a new trail for cross country skiing but even with snow shoes, it’s a tough slog, especially uphill. Andy’s snowshoes are the original kind like trappers have used for hundreds of years and he stayed right on top of the snow. Mine are the new kind, a type of bear paw, and they sink much farther into the snow, creating a little more work. Boy, if you want a work out, that’s definitely the way to go. It’s right up there with breaking trail cross country skiing.
Staying in the woods is about all you can do now if you don’t like the wind, and I don’t. Our wind was howling again today from just before noon until later this afternoon when it calmed down a bit. It doesn’t seem to slow a lot of people down though, like it does me.
The pilots from Springhouse were in again today. They made a sharp little landing into the wind in front of our place, parked and walked up to Nimpo again, presumably for lunch. A few guys crossed in front of our place on snow machines headed out for some trailriding today, and we even had a few locals park down on the ice near Oscar’s skating rink park, start a fire, set up some chairs and enjoy the afternoon with their kids. Yesterday we had three fellows stop by on snowshoes heading toward Wilderness Rim where everyone at the resort was doing their annual mid-February ice cutting. I really enjoy seeing people move around at this time of year on blue sky days. If that wind wasn’t blowing I’m sure there would be more!
At least we haven’t received the damage from the wind that they have down on the Lower Mainland and over on the Island. We were lucky to have that big windstorm in the fall of 2008 I think, because it took down every tree that was likely to come down, green and dead alike, but the Coast hasn’t been so lucky. I saw on the news tonight that about 25,000 people were without power, lots of trees came down on buildings and cars, and there were a lot of delayed sailings for BC Ferries.
The worst thing that has happened here is the ice road drifting over and Andy having to go out and re-plow it a few times. I haven’t even tried to go skiing out on the lake. Any trail I cut would be drifted over in minutes so it would be pointless, not to mention miserable. As I said, I’m a wimp when it comes to wind. It just hate it so the most I’ll go out in it is to walk the dogs on our route and try to arrange it so that when I’m in the open I have my back to the wind.
It seems awfully early this year for our spring winds so I’m not sure what’s up. I’m just glad we don’t have more than a couple of inches of fresh snow for that wind to move around or things would be a real mess. Then we would look like Saskatchewan! :-)
A few more critters are starting to move around now. I saw where an otter had crossed our property in that fresh snow the other day. We have a really steep hill off our roadside down to the lake and they really seem to like sliding down it. I’m seeing lots of squirrel tracks now as well as fox and coyote but I haven’t seen any more wolf tracks. Still no rabbit tracks but River did manage to dig an old dried up carcass of one out of the snow when we were snowshoeing. Maybe that was the last rabbit of the year. We must be at the very lowest point in their life cycle. It sure must be hard on the lynx right now, anyway.
Our friend Dawn sent me some photos that she took a few days back and has been trying to email to me ever since. It seems after all this time I’m still having problems with my email client. She liked the looks of Andy plowing the ice road at the same as that plane came into land the other day so much that she hopped on her snowmobile, left her ice fishing hole on the lake, and came out to take photos. She also sent me a couple of a little red fox she has hanging around her place. I watched it hunting in her yard one day as I got into my pickup to leave. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It could have cared less if I was there or not, it was so intent on hunting a mouse it had cornered. In any case, I’ll post the photos up on the right. Enjoy. And thanks, Dawn!
We are supposed to see another storm move in tonight according to the weather forecasters, and it’s bringing snow. I just don’t know if we’ll actually get it here. It looks like it on the radar but so far…. I guess as usual, we'll see when we get up in the morning.
Last week's blog is at February Week Two.

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!
An arborist climbs a pine tree to be felled.
An arborist watches as the top half a tree falls down.
An old red snowmobile has a sapling holding the skies together.
A group of us in snow with snowmobiles and a fire.
A red fox follows a scent in the snow.
A plow truck and mountains can be seen under the wing of a plane.
A white truck plowing snow on the lake coming toward the camera.
A blue and white plane lands on the ice with mountains in the background.
Three men snow shoe toward the mountains across the lake.
Button leading to The Chilcotin Facebook Page.
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