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Wilderness Adventures - West Chilcotin Blog

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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31/01/2015 10:30 AM

The Long Road Through January

I have been trying to write this blog for nearly two weeks without much success even though I know that lots of people rely on this rather than the Facebook page for updates on the area. I’ve graduated from my hip acting up to my back acting up and back again to the point that I really can’t sit in my office chair for more than a couple of minutes at a time. I can usually get a Facebook post up but that’s been the extent of my attachment to my computer. I’m sorry about that folks. On the good side, because I can’t sit down for long, I’ve gotten other things accomplished in and out of the house this winter.
After acquiring the cross country classic and skate ski trackers from guests this winter that kindly donated them, we’ve been putting in some trail but it has been one heck of a roller coaster ride of a winter so far and has had an affect on doing that.
We have had some substantial dumps of snow at a time taking days to dig out from under in a couple of cases. Not only do we have decks, a yard, paths, a quarter mile of driveway and the ice road to try to keep clear, but Andy also has to devote some time to clearing neighbours’ driveways, cleaning up the parking over at the restaurant, and most importantly, we have to clear the snow off the roofs of many of our buildings. Particularly when shortly after a two foot snow fall the weatherman is forecasting warmer air and rain which makes the weight of the snow on the roof just too much to be safe for the building.
We did lose the canvas carport that we had moved down near the snowmobile trailer this past summer. It houses the old ‘33 and it’s new home also meant we weren’t quite as on top of what was happening to it as when it was in the yard. A lot of it was under a massive spruce tree that should have protected it but instead, unloaded a large amount of icy, heavy, snow onto it, thus collapsing it. The whole white mess is so frozen in that we’ve just left it as is until spring when we can get in there and see what damage there is. We put plywood on the roof under the canvas which I had hoped would help stabilize and strengthen it but Andy says it was the aluminum poles that bent under the weight. Maybe we need to build a proper pole barn after all. I was hoping to avoid one more large project. We don’t really need any more.
We have had a couple of Pineapple Expresses move in this winter bringing warm air and rain, usually after our large dumps of snow, but sometimes being the cause of them as well. As I mentioned in the last blog for December, the first rain was ideal because it melted all the snow off of the ice on the lake, which meant no overflow and the ice could grow.
Less than a week into January, it started to snow and after a couple of days, we had nearly another two feet of snow on top of what was already on the ground. I don’t know if you can tell from the photo on the right, but the one day that it was really pouring the snow down all day, I had cleared off one of the trucks and moved it so that Andy could plow where it had been parked. It was snowing so hard that in the time it was parked there, another two inches of snow had accumulated on the windshield and I had to clear the driver’s side enough just to that I could see to park it again back in its regular spot. The same day I took the plow truck down on the ice to try and get some of the snow off the ice road but it was coming down so hard it was a complete white out. Even with yellow glasses on I couldn’t see anything and I was literally bouncing from the snow bank on one side to the bank on the other until I had made a couple of passes and could start to see where the ice road actually was. I kept plowing until nearly dark when I got stuck and Andy had to come and pull me out.
Then it rained all night, which formed a hard crust on top of the snow, making it hard to shovel, hard to plow, and even hard to run a snowmobile through without getting stuck, which we did trying to break in the back trail for walking and skiing. We spent a lot of time in the plow truck trying to keep the ice road clear while the snow came down. That was most important because any build up of snow on the ice could potentially cause overflow, which would pretty much put the ice road out of commission for the rest of the winter. And once we knew rain was coming on top of the snow, it meant busting our behinds trying to get snow off of the boats, and roofs. Andy bought one of those big 21’ roof scrapers when he was last in town which meant I could finally participate in roof clearing. I can’t do the heights to get up there and clear snow, but I can clear a lot of it from the ground now. It’s wonderful and one of those things that just surprises you when it actually does the job it’s designed to do really, really well.
We finally also have lots of shovels this year, which helps. I had an ergonomic push shovel that Andy gave me for Christmas last year but it didn’t work that great for anything but pushing and he had been patching our other two shovels up for years to keep them going. My plastic grain shovel was from 1990 was on its last legs and is not only badly sun damaged but has been used brutally for years summer and winter. So I picked up a shovel from Costco down in the Okanagan this past November and Andy got me a new grain shovel and a push shovel for Christmas, so at least we had the weapons we needed to tackle all the snow this year! However, I guess we could have just waited like the road maintenance crews in Williams Lake does for the warmer weather and rain to come and save ourselves a lot of trouble.
A week later we started to finally see some sunshine for the first time in weeks and we could see that there had been an inversion higher up because a lot of the mountains were black, probably the same inversion that cleared the snow off of ski hills down in the Lower Mainland. By mid-January, temperatures were starting to reach the freezing mark and we were seeing a lot more sun, enough to keep from packing up and going to Mexico, anyway. Everyone had been grousing around here for a month because of the lack of sunshine so I wasn’t the only one complaining about it, but my other half and the animals were starting to run for the hills about the time I got up in the morning. Even my SAD light wasn’t doing the trick and not being able to get out and walk or get any exercise due to weather, snow and old hip and back injuries was not helping a bit. So I can’t tell you how nice it has been to see some sunshine and warmer temperatures in the past two weeks. It has made all the difference in the world!
Andy and I got out on our snow machines and started breaking out trails so that I could walk with the dog and set some tracks. He dragged the big skate ski tracker to widen and smooth the back trail and I followed with the classic tracker on one side of it. As soon as the tracks were set I had posts painted and ready to set in next to the ski tracks so that anyone following the trail on snowmobile could see where the ski trail was and hopefully not obliterate it as had happened before Christmas. It’s been in for over two weeks now and not a single snowmobiler has run over it which is marvelous! Thanks to Leah up at the store for letting everyone know that the trail is there.
We got about a week of very warm weather toward the end of this month with temperatures as high as 9C or 48F one day which did a lot to melt out the ski tracks. But it also took the snow down by two thirds. We still have snow up to our knees but it’s far less than it would have been had we not gotten the big melt.
All that snow created brutal overflow conditions on the lake but the ice road held up because we kept it clear the whole time. Lots of people were ice fishing off our point for the whole month of January because the fishing has been terrific this year, but much of the time they were standing in up to a foot of water. After a couple of cooler nights Andy and I decided to run down onto the lake with our machines after coming back from breaking some trail and see if there was overflow. I could see water coming up behind his machine as it lugged down and just about that time I could feel mine start to work hard so I kicked up the throttle and got the heck out of there while he made a big circle as well and we raced back in and off the lake. It was clearer to understand why three does and two fawns that I watched cross the lake the day before took such a long time and looked to be having a real struggle getting across. It would have been hard slogging for them in that overflow.
We have since had about a week of cold nights and cooler days so I expect it has frozen up again now. We heard snowmobiles for the first time in ages on the other side of the lake the day before yesterday so maybe it is okay now.
As welcome as the melt was for all of us, it also caused some serious problems. The resulting ice everywhere has been really, really dangerous. You take your own life into your hands every time you try to walk anywhere that the snow was first packed, and then melted, like in our yard, down our driveway, and in every parking spot up in Nimpo. I won’t go anywhere without points strapped onto my boots but Andy doesn’t use them. So after we got a skiff of snow on the ice the other morning he went out to feed the dogs and took a pretty nasty fall that wrenched his shoulder badly. Enough so that I've been praying we don't get a big dump of snow so that he doesn't have to run the Bobcat for a few days, or at least until his shoulder has some time to heal up a bit. We’ve gotten a little more snow since that is starting to pack and create a less dangerous surface to walk on but you still have to walk pretty carefully.
Still, even taking into account that this has been a bit of a rough winter, we have it really, really easy compared to eastern Canada and the US. Actually, most of the time we’ve had it better than all of Canada because the prairies have been suffering some pretty deadly cold weather off and on all winter while the rest of Canada has been cold and loaded down with one snow storm after another. So as much as we might like to complain here, we should probably be counting our blessings instead!

The last blog is at December Week One.

Don't forget that you can find regular updates on the Facebook page at Facebook/TheChilcotin.

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!
The sun finally shines over the lake this winter.
Two people pull their kids on a sled over the ice road.
Bright pink on white sign posts mark a cross country ski trail.
Five does and fawns make their way slowly through wet snow on the lake ice.
A moose makes its way through deep snow on the lake.
A truck is running with snow coming down hard.
Button leading to The Chilcotin Facebook Page.
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