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Wilderness Adventures - Jan, Week 1/2012

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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05/01/2012 7:25 PM


I wish you folks could hear the lake tonight.
If we ever get anything faster than our slow satellite hookup, I would definitely like to upload more video and sound to the blog, and lake sounds would be first. I do have some that I posted a couple of years ago but it looks like you have to download a Quicktime plugin to listen to it so I need to do some new ones using Windows media player, maybe. Having gone to a new computer is one of the main reasons I haven't put more interactive media on the blog in the last couple of years. I have to learn a bunch of stuff all over again and I haven't put the time into it. Although I think I might have a decent grasp on the new camcorder I got for Christmas, the software for editing movies seems to be pretty basic, so I'll have to find something else that runs on Windows 7 before I can upload much of anything. But at least I have my sound back now so I can hear stuff! Yay.....!!!!!
I digress. Back to the lake.
I don't know if it's because we have a growing moon, but the lake started thumping and growling at about four this afternoon and it hasn't stopped. It shouldn't be because of a huge temperature variation. It dropped to -8C or 17.6F last night but it didn't really go above freezing by more than half a degree today so that shouldn't do it. We did have a full day of sunshine and sometimes that can make a real difference to the ice when it warms up in the sun, and then cools quickly once the sun goes down. I don't know the reason but we've been able to hear the lake thumping from inside the house right through dinner and with the television on.
We had a little go around with the weather here yesterday. It started to sprinkle rain through the night on Tuesday and continued to rain throughout the day yesterday. Everything was sheer ice and highway 20 was closed for a few hours between Alexis Creek and Tatla Lake because of freezing rain. The mail truck couldn't make it through and I understand that there was at least one accident because of the road conditions. Even though the highways guys were pouring the sand to the roads, I don't think it was doing much good.
We drove to Anahim Lake yesterday and the highway was just a mess with ice, slush, sand, frost heaves and more rain coming down. The main road into our place from the highway was really slippery with rain on compact snow that had turned to ice. Andy likes that because then he can drift around the corners with the dually. Not exactly a sports car but it's fun for him, I guess. Walking anywhere was a nightmare and most people complained that they couldn't even stand up in their driveways. I know that we couldn't. Yesterday evening we started losing television reception and when we turned on the outside light, sure enough, you could see why. The rain had turned to snow and it was driving in sideways over the deck with all the attitude only a blizzard can bring with it. A few minutes later, the wind dropped and then big, fat, furry snowflakes started falling, but fortunately it didn't last long. We ended up with less than an inch of snow but it couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time if it tried. That snow landing on top of rain meant it just glued itself to the ice and then froze there overnight. Voila! No more icy driveways, walkways, or roads, although our deck was a little deadly in places this morning and my truck doors are still frozen up. But that snow frozen to the ice provides great traction everywhere, thank heavens.
I don't know how much rain we got over that 24 hour period because I didn't have a rain gauge out. You don't really expect to have to have one out in the middle of winter, so it's impossible to tell, but I think if it had come in the form of snow, we would have been doing a lot of shovelling.
It looks like we have a couple of more systems rolling in from out in the Pacific, but from the radar map, we may not see much from them. While we're much cooler than we were last week, I think the milder temperatures might return next week when some warm fronts come in. Suits me! I know it's not great for snowmobiling or dog sledding or skiing, but the longer this continues, the shorter winter becomes. I know we'll get snow and colder temps because we always do so I'm going to enjoy this weird weather for as long as it's here. I just have to duck the rocks the winter loving locals are throwing at me. :-)
02/01/2012 7:15 PM

The 2011 New Year's Eve Ice Party

Happy New Year's, Everyone!
The Ice Party is over and done with for yet another year and about time! Although it's nice to see that it's such a success, it is a lot, of lot of work. While I start cooking and freezing what I can, and we have our wood cutting work party before Christmas, you can still count the week between Christmas and New Year's as being shot doing all the things that need doing.
We had a good turn out on for a work party on the Wednesday before New Year's and again on Thursday with everyone pitching in and lending a hand. It was a little disconcerting to Andy and me to arrive a little early on Thursday and see at least half the Christmas trees we had packed into the snow banks fallen over onto the ice. We had a warm day and terrible winds the night after we had put them in the snow bank. It would seem the snow hadn't frozen in around the trees enough before the wind came up and they fell over. I went home and got buckets of hot water and we got most of the trees back up and packed into the snow before anyone else arrived for the work bee. It meant the trees wouldn't have time to set up before putting lights on them but the ladies on that chore did a wonderful job and not a single tree fell over while they decorated. That night it dropped to -22C or -8F with no wind so I guarantee those trees were well frozen in by the next morning!
The big push was on with a lot of stuff needing to be done on New Year's Eve day itself but unfortunately, I guess no one realized that. Basically it was Andy and me on a dead run for most of the day with Leah and Richard there off and on as much as they could be with the babies needing attention, and not much of anyone else. Finally, Leah rousted John and Clint out of the nearby cabin long enough to light the Swiss Candles at five because Andy was busy with extension cords and the generator and I had to leave. If I didn't get home and get everything cooked or heated up to take out on the ice for six, no one was going to have any food to eat. As it was, it all worked out by some miracle, though I'm not sure how. I think it was nearly ten before I got to sit down at a bonfire, making it nearly 12 hours going steady, and just as long for Andy.
The fireworks were a great success, thanks to Richard and Leah. There's a donation box up at the store to help pay for them so if anyone is so inclined, every little bit helps.
I didn't get a chance to count people until after the early fireworks were over and quite a few had already left when I did do a rough count, and there were still nearly 150 people there. Judging by how much the crowd thinned out and how many I saw leaving when I ran up to the post office for more water for hot chocolate at 9:30, there were at least 200 people and more likely 250 people on the ice at any one time before the fireworks at 8:30. It's almost impossible to get an accurate count on just how many people attend the New Year's Party in total because the crowd changes constantly. You have kids and families early on with a good mix of middle to older folks who are replaced by young people, snowmobilers and late night party groups from around eleven on.
We had a real beauty of a skating rink this year that the guys really had to work over for several days in a row to get smooth. Until it got quite late, every time I looked over there were loads of kids skating on the ice or playing hockey. We also had a great curling rink that got used all night with the rocks Len made this year again. We tried to carry the rocks over from last year but they had just dried out too much out on the ice until we could get them into the lake after ice off last spring. They never did reabsorb enough water to keep them from cracking apart and most of the rocks lost their bark so that meant making new ones. Thanks to Len for doing that. I know it's a heck of a job trying to grind down and prepare fresh aspen rounds so that they make a great rock, but he accomplished it.
We had lots of Swiss Candles this year and nearly all of them burned great. Periodically, I went around and lit fresh ones so we had good torch light nearly all night long, but I admit to only relighting the ice candles part of the night. I think I quit going around and replacing the candles somewhere around midnight once the skaters had all left the rink and by then, the guys on the curling rink could have cared less if they had light to see by.
We had four bonfires with lots of dry wood and so for a change, they were burning well, although I had to start them at three in the afternoon just to make sure they were going good by the time people started to arrive. For some reason or other, fires take a long time to get going out on the ice and for the life of me, I can't figure out why. I've backed up the times that I start the bonfires but this was the first year that they actually got going well in time and I still had to work at it. I think it must be the ice. Maybe the air above the ice is just too cold and it takes a long time to warm it up enough to where the fires will really get going. At least they finally did and after midnight, they were getting pretty tricky to stand next to as well. The ice always melts out around the base of a fire and eventually the ice around the fire slopes into it and there's enough water lying on that smoothed ice to guarantee wetness if you slide into the fire. A few people slid in including myself, although that was at about five in the morning when I was trying to kick the last of the embers into the center of the fire. Standing on one leg on a slippery slope and kicking logs with the other pretty much guarantees a dunking. Thank heavens everyone else had gone so I could go home finally, and dry out.
I was pretty pleased with the night. My only disappointment was with the temperature. For two weeks prior to the party we had enjoyed mild temperatures, including at night, and very little snow. The day after th party it was warm and today was a remarkably balmy day with sun shining, no wind, and snow melting everywhere. But the day of the party was a whole different animal and was I ever PO'd about it! I think everyone else was too.
The day before the party was really warm and it was quite pleasant working out on the ice that day, but that night the mercury just plummeted. It was the coldest we had seen in well over a month at -22C. The cold should have meant at least it would dawn clear and sunny as the weathermen had forecast which would mean it would warm up again during the day. Not so. Heavy cloud moved in before the sun came up and it held that cold down all day. The temperature climbed ever so slowly and I kept looking at the faint glow where the sun was supposed to be, pleading to the weather Gods, “Please, please, please, come out for even just an hour!” By late afternoon the temperature had climbed to -8 and the sun finally came out but only just before sundown. Too late to do much good and since it was clearing off, it meant it was going to start dropping again. It did, but fortunately the warm front that was being called for must have been slowly moving in because fortunately, it didn't get much colder than -12C or 10.4F for most of the night and it was still only around -14C when I climbed into bed at about 5:30 in the morning. Still, a number of people left earlier than they might normally have just because they were chilled. After just three hours out on the ice, if you're just standing around talking, you're probably going to get cold, especially if you don't have the proper foot gear on.
The highlight of the party this year was the ice bar with its new shooter additions. Someone on ice cutting detail suggested cutting huge wedges of ice with drink chutes cut into them on the diagonal. The ice bar was done and Eileen was wielding the chainsaw so she did a fine job of cutting the wedges (in yellow, top right photo) which were then welded to the top of the ice bar with a blow torch. Then narrow chutes were cut into the wedges with the chainsaw and factory tested. The one shooter chute worked great but the other one had a bit of a wow in it. Maria tested that one, ended up with a face full of beer that had done the luge down the wonky chute and as a result, smelled like a brewery for the rest of the afternoon. You wouldn't believe the scientific engineering, consultation, and fine carving with a Leatherman that went into that shooter wedge to fix it, but after considerable time, energy, study and advice, more factory testing determined it to be fit for use. Did I try it? Nope. First of all, you had to do the limbo in order to get under the bottom of the shooter chute and I don't think I could get down that low without either getting liquor up my nose, (not appealing) or falling down on the ice. (Also not appealing.) In fact, I'm not too sure how a lot of those six foot tall guys got under it but I'm sure there was a lot of falling down under it later on. It would have been much better to put a big block of ice on the bar under it and then weld the wedge of ice on top of it. But I had asked for an Inukshuk (I got a mini one but it was still cool) so by the time the shooters were being built it was late afternoon, everyone was tired, it was getting dark, and everyone was more eager for testing than they were for esthetics. Besides, it worked if you were either very short or very nimble, so what did it matter? :-)

JANUARY 03/2011
I didn't get this blog uplast night so I'll add a quick blurb for today as well.
It's kind of a dull day in paradise today, which is just dandy with me. It's cloudy with a breeze but it never dropped below freezing last night and it's already a couple of degrees above today. Not nearly as gorgeous as yesterday with sunshine and at least plus 5C temperatures, but I'll take it! I don't know of anyone that wasn't dreading this winter after long range forecasters said another La Nina was building and we could expect a long winter with higher than normal precipitation and colder than normal temperatures. Yech! Three years running of that kind of thing just didn't seem fair. But so far, the weathermen have been wrong. (Geez.... How could that possibly be?) Other than that cold snap in November, the weather has been glorious. We probably only have about eight or ten inches of snow in the woods but where the sun can reach it, it varies from bare patches on our lawn to just a few inches. We were getting the odd little snows but we've also gotten rain which really takes the snow down. You can drive anywhere on the lake and the lack of snow on it means we have good ice this year. Clear as a bell and 15” thick pretty much everywhere in the bay. I'm not sure what it is out on the Main Arm but it shouldn't be much less than that and might be more. It didn't get as much snow on it earlier on in the way the bay did because it froze several weeks later.
We have a really interesting pressure ridge out between the point and the big island that no one has ever seen before and it's high enough that you definitely would not want to hit it with a snowmobile. One night a few weeks ago folks at the south end of the lake heard a huge boom and one of them even called us to see if someone's house had blown up or was on fire. We couldn't see flames anywhere we looked so figured all was well. We hadn't heard anything but the television was on and our house is pretty sound proof. It was only a day or so later that I noticed the pressure ridge so I wonder if that's what made the noise so many people heard. We haven't had a chance to get out there and take a look at it yet but I was talking to a friend yesterday and she said it was something else! Ted Hlokoff sent me some photos of it so I'll post them here if I have the room.
This is the start of a new week so you'll find December's blogs at December 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!
Ice Inukshuk covered in Christmas lights.
Pink fireworks.
Green fireworks.
Girl cutting ice with a power saw.
Men cutting ice.
Nick spraying water.
Girl at ice bar.
Three people studying ice bar.
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