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Wilderness Adventures - January, Week 3/2007

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 stories like 'Lake Monsters' - just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

You can search this site for a subject of interest to you at the bottom of this page. Check out the Picture of the Day.

20/01/2007 4:33 PM

Man, I Love Winter!

I didn't used to. Like many Canadians, I suffer severely from S.A.D. Starting in about October when it was obvious that winter was coming whether I wanted it to or not, I'd start getting about as grumpy as a bear. Living in the West Chilcotin, though, has improved that substantially. Clear skies and lots of sunshine are usually the order of the day in this region, and just what you need to blow away the winter blues.
We had fog move in yesterday afternoon, coating everything with a thick rime of frost. It cleared off last night so I don't know when we got snow but there was about three quarters of an inch of fresh fluffy stuff on the deck this morning. With the sun shining, everything glowing like a million diamonds and just a few degrees below freezing, it was the perfect day for a walk!
A pair of moose meandered up and down our driveway last night, after it started snowing and before it quit, crossing the drive from lakeshore to lakeshore several times. Probably the cow and calf pair that have been hanging around.
Once past our driveway and walking down the road, you could see all kinds of trails in the deep snow on either side, of moose wandering around through the snow. I only came across one set of tracks that were made this morning after the snow. It looked to be a good sized bull that crossed the road right where Andy came across the pair that wouldn't move off the road the other day. It's probably a well used trail because it goes down off the point where moose cross from the lake shore there, to the island, and then on. There may be open water there too, giving them a fresh water supply.
At one point, Mocha, the black lab, dove off the road to follow some tracks. She didn't get far because she landed in a drift of snow well over her head and had a heck of a time getting back up onto the road again. Nor was I going to help her. Like any predator, she needed to get any thought of chasing game out of her little head because she wouldn't have a hope in that deep snow.
Very near there, River started doing his sideways dance with nose in the air. He'd caught scent of something in the woods that was keeping all of his attention for a few hundred feet. The same thing happened on the way back by that spot and he too ended up in deep snow that quickly tamed any interest he might have had in going farther. I suspect that there were one or two moose standing off in the trees. They would be too smart to move and I doubt if me walking along the road would frighten them. I suppose it's possible that there might be caribou in there but I haven't seen much sign right around here.
It's interesting to watch dogs, because even though domesticated, they're still carnivores with a predatory background. Their similarity to wolves is still enough that you can probably judge the wild animals by the behaviour of the tame. Judging by how quickly the deep snow deterred the dogs, I can only assume the wolves are having an awfully tough time getting grits right now. As long as the snow stays soft and doesn't form a crust on top, the long legged prey is going to have the advantage.
Moose, for all their ungainly looks, are actually supremely suited to just these kinds of winter conditions. They have very long legs, and although it's impossible for the animal to run, they have a lope that any animal would be hard put to keep up to. They can step over fences and through deep snow without it even slowing them down, whereas a wolf would literally have to bound continuously to make their way through this snow.
A moose also has remarkable camouflage. Their legs are often white or grey, especially this time of year and the front legs are longer than the hind legs. That seems to cut down on their silouette against the snow considerably. Their coloring can range from a brown so dark it looks black, to a light chocolate, often with white or grey guard hairs in winter. The combination of colors and just the way their fur lies, means they can be standing among snowcovered trees looking right at you and you wouldn't know it unless you knew where to look and what you were looking for. Hard to believe for an animal that can stand over seven feet at the shoulder and weigh over half a ton.
Tendrils of fog have again started moving across Nimpo Lake making some of the trees hanging out off the shore look like crooked sentinels drooping at their post. More frost on the trees tomorrow. I heard a snowmobile crossing the lake farther out. Hopefully not someone going to supper on a machine. Once fog moves onto the lake it's virtually impossible to tell where you are. Even though you may be able to see the faint blur of house or lodge lights along the shorelines, there's no way of knowing who's they are after dark in the mist. That's the main reason why we leave our red Christmas tree lights on until March. The tree that carries them sits out on our point and is a good marker for determining where you are on the lake. That's provided you can see them through the fog.
We're supposed to be getting a wicked storm coming in from the Pacific again, due to hit tomorrow afternoon sometime. I'm really looking forward to that! Not.

18/01/2007 7:10 PM

Wee Weather

Compared to the rest of British Columbia, we're doing just fine weather wise.
I apologize for lack of article yesterday but it's tax time and I'm sure you can all relate to that, regardless of what country you're from. I don't have to have my income tax done but I did have to have my Provincial Sales Tax from clients done and ready for mail out tomorrow. Unfortunately, that entails having most of my income tax done to get the information to proceed with the PST. Gotta love this time of year and it ain't because of the terrific snow!
We got a light snow last night with extremely cold temperatures the night before, but today was warm and balmy and actually went above freezing.
Alas, the Lower Mainland/Vancouver area and the Okanagan did not fare so well. What was supposed to have been flurries for Vancouver turned into a bit of a snowstorm and the Okanagan got slammed pretty good. Numerous accidents, especially on the highway, because snow fell on top of black ice catching unwary drivers completely off guard. And in Vancouver? After all the wind storms, rainstorms, and snowstorms, I think they're just plain tired of it all.
Looks like Europe got nailed pretty hard with nasty weather as well, mostly in the form of 200kmh winds. The US hasn't made out very well either with the weather, especially the southern and southwestern States.

Friday
Yes, I know, yet another day went by without an article. I had to quite writing last night because we had a community shareholder meeting to go to and arrived back too late to go on with the above. Today I've been trying to track the highway conditions for Andy as he makes his way to Revelstoke. The highway is closed for 20 miles this side of that community due to avalanche and I've been waiting for the road report to update before he calls again.
We received a light dusting of snow again last night but he says it looks like Williams Lake got about six inches of the white stuff. The rest of the province has also been getting more snow and while the roads aren't bad besides being slippery in most places, apparently the roads around good old Tatla were atrocious... yet again. Those guys really need to pick up the pace down there.
Still lots more moose sightings both on Nimpo Lake and off. Wednesday night Andy was held up from going on to the Nimpo Hall just down from our driveway. A cow moose and her calf refused to get off the road and it took a while before he could convince them to take the plunge into deep snow. The same thing happened when he came back toward home a little later, both animals reluctant to move off the road and into the deeper snow along the sides. So yesterday Andy took out the snowmachine and beat a good trail down in the woods to the rifle range and back again, both to provide me with a track for skiing or walking, and giving the wildlife somewhere to hang out besides the road.
A friend down at Wilderness Rim at the other end of the lake said she's had the cow and calf pair go right up past the lodge, and the other morning she looked out to see a huge bull sleeping down in front of the place. Not only is there less snow down here than at higher elevations, but the moose are bothered far less by predators such as wolves, which is probably one of the reasons they're hanging in so close to human habitation.
Andy said the snow depth in the woods is incredible and there were several times he said he had to pour snuff to his machine to keep it from getting stuck. He said that snow wants to just suck the track down and it's hard to keep those skis up on top.
Over at the Nimpo Lake General Store today, a couple of us noticed water dripping from the ceiling and one of the women said her roof was leaking now too. More than one person has mentioned that the beams in their homes have cracked from the snow load. We are very fortunate to have an extremely steep pitch with a metal roof on our home, but it was definitely necessary to shovel off the guest cabin the other day. I'm not sure how well our storage shed will hold up but it isn't shedding snow as well as our garage or house.
A lot of people don't realize that although it looks like there's only a couple of feet of snow on the roof of a building. But if it hasn't slid, or a poorly insulated roof has caused melt, there is actually the entire winter's accumulation up there. And that's a lot of weight! More troublesome can be the ice buildup along the eaves. That can start melting and leak back in and down the walls of a home. There will definitely be some cleanup and repairs necessary to a few area homes before spring hits.

16/01/2007 7:08 PM

Mooskies

I had to make a run on the highway part way to Anahim Lake today and saw a cow and calf moose walking along the road but down in the ditch a bit. I was wearing dark sunglasses or I would have seen them much sooner. I wasn't going fast at all so I got stopped down the road and backed up, all the while looking for them. By this time they had sneaked off into the trees a little and it took me a while to spot them. Of course I should be shot.
It was strongly suggested to me before I went out the door today that I should take the big, new camera. But no, I figured if I saw something while driving, I would only have time to whip out the little one. Unfortunately, it just doesn't have the capabilities of the new one, so my fine looking moose are just going to look like little black dots. Even though the cow moose posed patiently all the while in the trees looking back at me as I took pictures, her calf tucked safely in behind her.
Later on as I drove back toward home I puttered along the highway with the windows down, freezing all the while, camera powered up and in my lap, while I scanned the bush on either side. Lots of tracks that hadn't been in the openings earlier in the day, but of course, since I was now ready for a great photo opportunity, not even a raven would produce itself.
Hey, I just uploaded that picture of the cow and calf moose and after bringing it in a bit, it doesn't look so bad after all. You can kind of see what species they are anyway.
Last night the temperature dropped quite a bit after having such a gloriously warm day and today it never got much above -5C or a little below freezing. It was an off and on day with both sun and cloud and not unpleasant at all outside until near dark.
I pulled down another beetle killed pine close to the house while Andy cut it and we shoveled snow off the badly buried guest cabin roof before I left for Nimpo. Andy dropped a couple more trees while I was gone. In fact he waited until I was gone to practice a wedging technique that could have been highly dangerous to him had something gone wrong. Which is why I should be around, perhaps?
A bunch of young people went by on snowmobiles late this afternoon after crossing from down the main arm of Nimpo Lake. It looked like they were working their machines pretty hard as they want past us. We had to move our sleds out from under the tree being cut this morning and as I took my machine out in a circle on the lake I could feel it bogging as the slushy snow underneath tugged at it. Andy says the overflow seems to be much worse today than two days ago. Makes sense. It's warmed up considerably from our cold snap and if that stuff didn't freeze then, it's never going to this winter!
Speaking of which, they're talking another cold snap coming and judging from the way the jet stream is dipping down, it looks to be quite possible. I guess we'll see.
Vancouver seems to have survived its predicted snowfall quite well today. In fact the newscasters pointed out that sand and salt trucks were right on top of the roads all night and morning but most surprisingly, people had slowed down and there were far fewer accidents. I would say that right there is the primary reason why. Slow down!!!. Treat winter with the respect it deserves, be prepared, and you're not skidding around playing an unintentional game of bumper cars!
Okay, that's my advice for the day. Back to work for me. Since this is the closest I've been to my computer all day, it's going to be a long night. Sigh...

15/01/2007 7:34 PM

Their Turn Again

Vancouver is expecting to get hit by the 15th storm of the winter and people down there just don't seem to be very pleased by the prospect at all. In fact, even the newscasters kind of have that resigned look. But hey! The good news is the tire shops
were actually quite busy today down on the Lower Mainland so maybe, just maybe, some people are starting to figure out that snow tires really might be a good thing to have for winter. Really, I know it's a grudge expense, but lets face it, a full set of snow tires in Vancouver would probably last you six years! Some years the region gets very little winter weather, but your vehicle should have the proper equipment when it does. Slap those babies on there before a storm hits, and remove them as soon it looks like your bad weather is over for the year. At least people down there don't have to worry about having winter six months out of the year. Trust me, you wear out snow tires at a much faster rate in the rest of British Columbia.
I do feel for folks down in the United States, especially the more southerly states or those that live in places like California, where winter doesn't happen except up in the mountains. Vancouverites get winter enough every year to know better than to not be prepared. But for those people that have never seen snow or ice, or so rarely that it's a phenomenon, it's got to be pretty tough to deal with. In many cases, it must be hard for them to even buy what they might need to face an unusual winter storm. I can see regular emergency equipment being readily available for most people because of other weather related occurances such as hurricanes, tornados, fire or flood. But how easy is it going to be to find de-icing salt in Texas or Georgia or even California? For that matter, do those states even own plow or salt trucks at lower elevations? And winter tires are probably not very common. I know block heaters aren't. In West Virginia people thought the plug on a cord hanging out the front of the radiator was for recharging our vehicle. That was long before electric cars came into being so we were definitely space age advanced!
Of course you can't just say people in the lower states don't know much about winter.
They just interviewed a female on television tonight that was trying to clear a one inch layer of ice off of her windshield by beating it with her running shoe. Yeah honey...that's gonna work real good...!!! She looked so delighted when someone loaned her a windshield scraper and she saw how effective it was. So question to myself is...do I actually want to be on the same road as someone that dense??? That was in Ontario. They get winter there every year for many months. She had even less excuse for not being prepared than people from Vancouver. Oh, and it's not like everyone wasn't warned that the storm was coming. They actually started advising people to stay off the road twelve hours before the storm even hit.
If I seem a little impatient with the city dwellers, it's because I am. Week after week of watching people cope inadequately with weather in cities in Canada starts to get to you. Or maybe it's our newscasters who also do a lot of complaining, that get to me. They talk very little about the rest of the Province of British Columbia, especially places like Stewart or Smithers that have been buried by storm after storm, dumping several feet of snow at a time. Power outages throughout the province, roads closed and numerous accidents. The Vancouver politicians and media seem to have the same blinders on regarding the existence of the rest of the province as Ottawa's politicians and media have about the existence of the rest of Canada.
Don't get me wrong. Vancouver has had it's share of vicious weather this fall and winter with high winds and some snow, where some people have been without power for days at a time and I sympathize.
But it seems when cold weather hits there are the endless news stories night after night about the poor, poor homeless for whom extra emergency shelters are opened. So far, every single poor homeless person that I have seen interviewed has been an able bodied man, with ages varying from early thirties to early fifties, articulate and without any identifiable disabilities. One guy said he was on the streets because that's where he wanted to be. No other reason. But wait! There are a lot of volunteers out there putting a lot of effort into sorting donations, preparing hot meals and serving them, and a warm bed, to these 'poor homeless' people. There are a whole lot of people in this country that donate food and clothes to organizations that hand it out. Yet there are a lot of job openings for able bodied people right now. In fact there's a huge manpower shortage, so from my point of view, there shouldn't be any such thing as homeless people. Certainly not the type I'm seeing on television.
So BC media, get off the pity schtik that you think will sell to audiences and start reporting the news. Or how about reporting on how the hard working farmer is doing in all that snow with his livestock. Or the poor logger that has to get up at 1:30 in the morning so he can get out to the woods in time to get his equipment warmed up after slogging through snow to get from his home to his truck, fighting through snow on bad roads, then slogging through more snow to get to his equipment, and so on.
Or here's a unique idea! Why don't you just report on an every day family in central, snowbound British Columbia and what they have to do to get out their door to their vehicle, clear their driveway or road, get their kids to a bus or school, get to work and so on. Or maybe talk a little more about what's happening with the icestorm down in the US because I find that of far more importance than I do people who are on the streets because they're too lazy to work for a living!
Okay, I'm off my soapbox. Back to our part of the world.
Our weather today was terrific! We were actually above freezing and a little wind kept gusting up to 15mph every once in a while. The good thing about that is it's taking some of that heavy snow off of the tree boughs. I've been concerned that we would get a melt exactly like this, a freeze and then more snow. Those branches would start breaking eventually under the load. Even now, the branches aren't cleared completely but they're definitely lightening up.
After that cold snap the wildlife has really started to move around now. Andy saw a cow moose and very small (probably late) calf on one side of the highway on the way to Anahim Lake yesterday, and a humungous bull on the way back.
This morning he again saw a huge bull moose on our road out to the highway, while the neighbour said he and his wife saw a monster bull (probably the same one) walk down between our place and another very early this morning. He said the animal was so big that its belly wasn't anywhere near touching the snow and it was high stepping along as though there was no snow at all. Now if I could just get a picture....
I've started a new week so you can find last week's at January, Week Two.


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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!
Monarch Mountain in the morning.
 
Cow and calf moose just in the trees.
 
A snowmobile and rider crossing Nimpo Lake.
 
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