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Wilderness Adventures - Jan., Week Two/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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17/01/2014 9:30 PM

The Glorious Winter

I had to call this post the Glorious Winter because of my sister. As with all siblings, we get to nudge each other about who has it better, especially about the weather. After all, what other subject do Canadians talk about the most? Usually, because she resides in lower elevation and normally milder Williams Lake, she wins. Not this year. The Chilcotin is the winner on the weather front this year and it gives me great pleasure to rub it in. After all, it doesn’t happen often so of course I’m going to take full advantage of it while showing true concern for the terrible winter Willy’s Puddle residents have had. Ha! Not!
While it’s true that a lot of the snow that we have received this winter is still on the ground, we have not had the brutal dumps at a time that Williams Lake has had, nor the freezing rain to the extent that they have had. Nor the fog, the overcast, the damp, or even the lower temperatures. For a good part of the winter we have enjoyed a temperature inversion and often our temps are warmer than theirs, including yesterday.
We went into town yesterday morning and as we drove farther east, it got colder and colder and more socked in with fog. In fact, we stopped a couple of times on the way in because the mist in the fog had frozen onto our antennas creating a layer of ice that was bending them over quite a bit as we travelled. We were concerned that Williams Lake would be foggy as well because the town lies in a valley but since the lake is frozen over, it thankfully was clear, although somewhat overcast. The weathermen had been forecasting that any valley in BC would be socked in with fog and cooler temperatures over the next few days while higher elevations would be in clear sunshine with temperatures actually reaching as high as, get this.... 18C or 64F!
We ran around town doing our errands and an appointment and shot out of town before 4:30 in the afternoon hoping to at least get past Alexis Creek and the bad deer areas before it got completely dark. We hit a lot of fog on the way home but the moon came up behind us and helped to light the way by about the last sixty miles when the fog lifted and of course, the temperature rose the farther we drove west. It was pretty apparent that the sun had been shining and it had been reasonably warm out here yesterday just by the temperature in the house when we got home, even though the fire had gone out.
Today was a gorgeous day with full sunshine! I forgot to check the thermometer except for once when it was about three degrees above freezing but there wasn’t a breath of wind. We both roasted in the sun when we walked the dogs today and were both way overdressed. This has been just an amazing winter so far with much higher than normal temperatures thanks to the constant temperature inversions. Proof of that is the lack of snow on the mountains,
While Williams Lake and even Alexis Creek have gotten their butts kicked on the snow front this winter, Kleena Kleene has been in its own little bubble all winter. There is no snow there at all and there hasn’t been for most of the winter. There’s snow at Clearwater just up the road and it increases in depth by quite a bit coming our way, and of course there is a little snow at Tatla Lake that increases a great deal going to the east, but that little corner of the world is kind of like the place that time forgot. Or the way you imagined the center of the earth looked like in Jules Verne’s book. Lots of adventure stories show people dropping from a frozen snow covered land into a steamy jungle deep in the core of the earth, or a time tunnel or cartoon.... That’s kind of what Kleena Kleene looks like but without the jungle or the steam. You drop down the hill and around the corner from a snowy region into a valley with bare rocky hillsides and brown alfalfa fields strewn with cattle. Through the valley you go, up the next hill, around the corner and you start seeing scant snow again in the trees and then more and more snow that gets deeper the farther you get from the valley. It’s absolutely the weirdest thing ever. I know that the pass from that valley through the mountains is the shortest route to the ocean along our coast, but it’s still a couple of days horseback ride away. However, it must still be close enough to have been heavily influenced by warm coastal air this year.
It must be strange as heck for the folks that live at Kleena Kleene to leave the little valley to go to Nimpo Lake or to Tatla and hit snow almost immediately upon cresting one hill or the other leading out of the valley. They would go from one season into another within minutes. I’m thinking it would be a great place to move to because they often have trees in full leaf before trees on either side of the valley have even budded out in the spring and they still have glorious fall color on the aspens when our trees have been stripped bare by fall winds. But I have also seen the other side of Kleena Kleene, although admittedly it’s been a few years. I often used to travel the 200 miles to Williams Lake every weekend when I got off of work to visit my parents and come home on a Sunday to go to work that afternoon. I might hit one snow squall after another coming back out but more than once I’ve hit that valley and had to plow through one to two feet of fresh snow on the ground and try to make a run up the hill on the other side. The same warm air that often filters through the mountain pass from the Pacific ocean can also bring moisture laden air that hits the colder inland air and dumps on the valley. That also often happens to Tatlayoko and West Branch Valleys southwest of Tatla Lake. We might get a skiff of snow and they can easily get two feet or more in a day. On the upside, they can grow gardens down in some places in those valleys that we can only dream of. So I guess you just have to take the ugly with the good no matter where you live. It’s kind of like us. They have no mosquitoes down that way and we have more than enough to make up for any shortfall. Wait a minute… why do I live here? Oh yeah, it’s purty here in winter. :-)
In any case, it has been pretty darned cool to drop down in Kleena Kleene and see bare sun drenched sidehills and fields. It kind of gives you that little fix you need to keep you going until spring.
Nimpo lake seems to be in pretty good shape now with regards to overflow. We had some high winds and melting temperatures to settle snow on the surface of the lake and cool enough nights to freeze up a lot of the overflow. Although Andy brought a snowmobile down the lake this week and hit pretty bad overflow on the north end of the lake, he said the Main Arm and our South Arm was really good. I could see huge ponds of water laying on the ice down at the North Arm which Andy says are frozen over now but it must have been pretty messy out there for a while. I’ve noticed in years past that they often have a lot of water on the snow down there and I don’t know if it’s because of warm springs under the ice or it’s just narrow enough there between the shores that the ice cracks more.
A skiff of snow on the track Andy made coming home would make for perfect skiing right now but I’m enjoying walking the dogs so much in the back that I just haven’t gotten around to strapping the skies on yet. I have seen one fellow staying at a neighbour’s out there a couple of times as well as the odd person walking, so the surface must be okay. I haven’t heard of any spider holes swallowing anyone up yet, anyway.
Speaking of which….
No one is driving across the lake from our boat ramp over to the Nimpo boat launch yet. At some point we have to get out there and drill to see if we can drive over or put a road across. The snow on the lake was so saturated there for a while that no one wanted to try it and even the New Year’s ice party was held as close to shore as possible this year. I’ll have to check with Oscar to see how his end of the ice is doing. I’ve seen kids and adults playing hockey over on his rink periodically so presumably, he doesn’t have too much overflow over there.
We had a huge number of spider holes big and small in the back bay here earlier and we still have some slush on our shore but it doesn’t look as bad as it was. Building an ice road is just something else we haven’t gotten around to doing yet. It’s tax time and I have some web builds to do, there is still the ongoing kitchen renovation and we need to get some wood in here pretty quick, so I guess if we get to road building we get to it. If not…. No biggie. The drive around by road is nice too and the highways guys have been doing a terrific job of keeping the main road up this winter so we don’t really need the ice road. We do have a guy and his wife that like to use the ice road to fly his model airplane all winter, mainly because it just gives better access out on the lake without having to walk in snow. But they used the launch on our side this past week to fly the plane and it seemed to work for them, other than it’s a little shady in the back bay and so probably much cooler.
Oh, I almost forgot! There is some crazy little bird down by the bridge where the Dean River exits Nimpo Lake. He’s been there all winter, or at least we think he has been. We first noticed him bobbing on the slim line of open water surrounded by frozen ice a month ago. I got a photo of him using Andy's little pocket camera but he was too far away to make out what he is.
He’s brown, so he’s not a loon, and to me he seems to have a long neck so he could be a merganser or grebe, but I’ll have to take my big camera down to the bridge and see if I can get a better photo of him. I’ve often thought that it would be a good place for a young loon to go if it can’t make it off the lake before ice up and needed to survive through the winter. But we’ve never seen another bird there before now, and maybe a loon couldn’t survive down there. They need loads of fish and I suppose it’s possible that not a lot of fish would be swimming through there before spawning time. On the other hand, there’s probably lots for one little duck to eat if he can dive to the bottom and this one certainly dives. He also stays as far away from the bridge as possible so maybe a fox or coyote has tried to get him there where the ice chokes the river down to its narrowest point. Maybe that explains why we often see a fox hanging around there. It’s darned cool to see that the duck has survived this long anyway, and I hope he makes it through the winter. He’ll certainly have a jump on the other birds migrating to the north in the spring if he does!
Last week's blog is at January Week One.

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!
Children playing hockey on Nimpo Lake.
Bright lines of color at sunset over frozen Nimpo Lake.
Red and white model airplane flies over the resort docks.
Red and white model airplane banks over the lake.
A person cross country skies on snow on the lake ice.
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