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
Wilderness Adventures - January, Week 4/2007
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of the Day.
got to go out on Nimpo Lake today. Boy, I've missed
Andy and I took a run across the lake on snowmobiles today
to see if there was any overflow and there wasn't a bit!
That meltdown we had with the pineapple express for a
few days compressed the snow on the ice enough for it
to lose all of its insulating value. Now with cold night
temperatures, it's pretty much frozen everything up. I
was a little concerned that we might not be able to chunk
up enough loose snow with the tracks to keep the machines
cool, but other than right out in the middle of the Main
Arm of of the lake, it was okay.
As we rounded the point on the other side of the lake
that I usually ski to, Andy scared up a cow moose
and her calf, that was only around 20 feet away.
They were a bit panicky and headed the other way when
I passed them. They ran along the shore for a ways, but
I looked back a few times and they had stopped after just
a short distance and were watching us. I didn't realize
that Andy hadn't even seen them until we stopped a little
farther down the lake. With a helmet on you have no peripheral
vision and since they were basically right next to him
and hidden by the point as he went by, he wouldn't see
them. The only reason I did was because
they had turned back in front of me to get out of his
way. They couldn't have been too upset. I saw what
I'm pretty sure were the same two moose later in the afternoon
through the window of a friend's dining room down
at Wilderness Rim Resort. There were all kinds of dogs
barking at each other, people and machinery and it didn't
seem to phase the moose in the least. The calf watched
me as I went to the truck to get the camera then went
back to watching whatever momma was doing when I went
Andy watched four moose cross the lake this morning, two
of which were probably the cow and calf. They were too
far away to get a good picture of them though.
After we came back on the snowmobiles I went out for the
first ski of the season. Conditions on the lake
are brutal for cross country skiing, but the sun
was shining, the air was crisp and it was just beautiful.
I skied back over to the other side where we had scared
up the moose earlier in the hopes I would see them again,
this time with a camera in hand. No chance of that though.
The surface snow on the lake is so crunchy that I was
making way too much noise. From the numerous trails
along the shore line over there it looks to be a favorite
haunt. There were six piles of droppings, at least
two of them today's, in the space of only a hundred yards
so they've been hanging around there quite a bit.
I saw two sets of moose tracks that meandered down our
main road to the highway on my way to Nimpo today. They
were probably made yesterday and covered nearly a mile.
Either a small number of moose are doing a lot
of moving around each day, or there's a pile of moose
in the country! I don't remember seeing this many
since the late 1980's when most of them were wiped out
by out-of-town hunters after the mill put in a bunch of
logging roads. It's nice to see so many moose but it won't
last long. February and March are the favorite time of
year for the natives to hunt moose from the back of snowmachines.
Since there is no limit on the number of animals they
can take, they hunt indiscriminately and this year, they
won't even have to go very far or spend much fuel.
We went down to Bella Coola yesterday. It
was a good drive with the road being a bit slippery up
top but lots of dirt showing on the Hill itself. They've
sure got a pile of snow through the Pass but you can tell
it settled and melted up there as much as it did down
here, or you wouldn't be able to see over the snow banks.
Highways had to hire a fellow with a CAT to push back
the banks because the grader no longer could, and he's
been at the job for weeks.
It was a bit of a shock being down in the Valley
in midwinter like this. The sun was shining on
the mountains, the temperature was around freezing and
the day absolutely glorious. But once you hit that Valley
floor, you don't see much sun. Places here and there get
a bit when the sun peaks through a notch in the mountains,
but it doesn't last for long. We were in Bella Coola
itself for several hours, and sunlight never touched the
town. There, the valley is too narrow and the
surrounding mountains too high, to allow the sun to shine
on anything but the opposite hillside this time of year.
It just made me itch to get back up the Hill. You can
see the sun on the wall of the valley, but you can't feel
it. I don't know how people down there handle it.
Most of the original settlers are Norwegian, and
it's said that one reason they settled in the Bella Coola
Valley was that it reminded them of their fjords at home.
Andy mentioned that those same fjords may have faced the
same direction and had as high a mountains as the Valley
and if that's the case, the lack of sun was probably something
they were quite used to. Many of their descendants still
living in the Valley may not be bothered either, especially
if they were born and raised there.
I wouldn't want to say too much bad about the Bella Coola
Valley because it's a wonderful place to visit in spring
and summer, both for us up on the Plateau and for the
tourists, but I've decided I could never live there in
the winter without the sun. They would be carrying
me away in a tightly laced white jacket within the first
month. Gotta have that sun!
Speaking of which, it looks like the whole province gets
a break for the next few days. We've already had sun for
a few days and a good strong high pressure system is going
to keep it here from the looks of it. Clear days and very
clear, cold, nights are the norm right now and I'm enjoying
it immensely. The air is still pretty crisp, even at midday,
but that sun has a lot of heat in it now compared
to the poor watery orb in the sky that you see around
the shortest day of the year in December.
A great day was topped off with a spectacular
sunset backdropping the mountains this evening. Looks
like our winter is finally back to normal!
The Life Of A Snow Flea
really hoping that I never do anything so bad that I have
to be reincarnated as a snow flea. Can you imagine
how bad your karma would have to be?
I've been noticing the last few days on my walks millions
of tiny snow fleas. No....snow fleas, like
ice worms, do not form the basis of fictional
stories to be told to greenhorns for the perverse pleasure
of the oldtimers. Both do exist and although
ice worms supposedly only exist on glaciers (I think I
disagree with that statement), snow fleas exist everywhere.
Even your backyard.
The problem with snow fleas is that they are so tiny,
(1/16 of an inch) they're virtually impossible to see
except on snow because they are so dark in color, they
look black. Snow fleas aren't actually fleas, but
a creature that can be dated back to long before dinasaurs
walked this earth.
On warm winter days you will see groups of them, looking
much like fine ash or dirt particles, laying around on
the snow. Well...not just laying. Many will actually be
springing around just like fleas, especially if you put
your finger down into the middle of the group. For some
insane reason, these little creatures actually like
to come out onto the snow in winter by burrowing up from
the leaf mold beneath. Once it gets much below freezing
though, you won't see them much. Although I did
see a mass of them in a fresh moose track today
that was pressed about twelve inches into the snow. It
must have been much warmer in the track than it would
have been up on the surface of the snow.
No, I didn't take a picture. I know you're probably getting
tired of pictures of tracks rather than of the real thing,
but if track soup is all you've got, then that's all you've
got. I've been religiously carrying a camera on my walks
the last two days and of course, haven't seen a single
animal. That's karma.
It was a stupendous day today. It finally dropped below
freezing last night and didn't get that much warmer today.
But it was a gloriously clear sunny day with pleasant
temperature and not a breath of wind until later this
The snow has hardened up enough in the cold to make for
good walking and at least we aren't losing any more of
it to that pineapple express.
My moose have made a liar of me. Here I
spoke earlier about almost all of the animal tracks being
pretty close to home on the back trail. Nothing fresh
today until I went on a trail I haven't been on for a
few days and at least a mile from home.
There a big bull meandered across the trail a couple of
times going from meadow to meadow. Once I hit the road
and started back home I had begun to formulate the
theory that even though a benign walk in the woods does
little harm to the animals, they are still wary
enough to move out of an area a human seems to be moving
around in on a regular basis. That is until I got nearly
to our driveway.
By now Andy had come out to meet me because I had been
gone so long studying tracks and mucking around with snow
fleas and such, that he had begun to worry I had slipped
and fallen somewhere. I was just pointing out to
him where I had seen the lynx when not a long stone's
throw from our driveway entrance were fresh moose tracks.
From the look of the two different sizes, it was probably
the cow and calf and not only had they wandered on the
road and snowbanks but had bedded down right next to the
road. Probably last night. I know the tracks weren't there
yesterday and it's very possible that our neighbour drove
right past them before first light this morning. So much
for my theory that my walks in the woods were moving the
animals away. It also explains what the dogs were bellowing
about just after dark last night.
Andy drilled the ice on Nimpo Lake out in front about
75 feet from shore just now. 18" of clear ice
and way more than we expected there to be. Neither
of us can figure out how ice can grow when the water underneath
it is above freezing and the overflow on top of it is
above freezing. It's a mystery to me. Even more so than
Too Much Of A Good Thing
I try hard to not sound like too much of a complainer,
especially when it comes to the weather. But sometimes
I think you can get just too much of a good
This is the third straight day with high winds and
high temperatures, and it's really kicking butt on our
I think we all wanted to see a day or so of above freezing
temperatures to settle our snow a bit, melt ice, bring
some snow off the roof of buildings as well as off the
trees. What we didn't expect three days running, were
temperatures ranging from freezing to plus 7C or 46 degrees
Fahrenheit and winds gusting to 20mph.
Yesterday I drove past a meadow near where the Dean River
exits Nimpo Lake. Prior to our melt, you could barely
see the tops of two large buckbrush willows out in the
middle that I'm sure have often been mistaken for moose
in late evening. By yesterday afternoon you could see
the top two feet and today I expect you can see more yet.
I kow that around the yard here some tree wells around
the base of the trees have melted right to the ground.
It's starting to look a little harsh among the trees along
the house. Although we still have snow to spare,
we won't have for too many more days at this rate.
A cooler high pressure system is supposed to be coming
in from the Pacific in a day or two. I hope the heck it
hurries up and gets here! This weather has caused problems
in more ways than one. I just drove past the Nimpo Lake
Community Hall and noticed that the snow load on
the roof had knocked over the chimney for the oil furnace
and knocked the chimney cap to the ground. Since
there was still a lot of snow up there, the chances of
water leaking down the chimney are pretty good. I had
to come booting it home to let Andy know before the furnace
was turned on tomorrow for dance class. He and the neighbour
went over to remove the snow and put the chimney back
in place. I'm afraid a few summer residents may come back
in the spring to find leaky roofs or similiar damage to
their cabins because of our weather.
I went for a walk in the woods today, this time taking
a camera and so saw nothing, naturally. Just at the entrance
to the trail across from our drive, the lynx had
walked on the same trail I walked yesterday. Maybe
he wanted to check out those three strange things he saw
go that way. He left some pretty good sized tracks. Even
if you take away the big circle left by the fur on their
feet, the toes and pad were easily as big as our biggest
dog. Told you he was fat.
There were fresh moose tracks crossing the trail just
up from that today. I noticed a multitude of trails crossing
the path a couple of days ago, but only one was fresh.
Oddly, like the lynx, most of the moose sign zig
zags back and forth across the trail quite near to home.
Once you get a mile away, there is very little movement
and I really don't know why that would be. The trail across
from our driveway is the junction point for several ancient
trails coming from different directions, so perhaps that's
Short Note Of Excitement
I got to see a creature I haven't seen close up in a few
I was taking the dogs for a walk late this afternoon,
actually using a ski pole because our driveway is so slippery
with this melt. I stowed the ski pole at the entrance
and started down the main road. I hadn't gone far
when I looked up and noticed a lynx sitting on the snowbank
at the edge of the road, calmly watching me. Mocha,
who had gone on ahead as usual, was about fifty feet from
me with the lynx about fifty more feet beyond her on the
opposite side of the road. The Lab was sniffing around
the edge of the road and had her back to the lynx so I
grabbed River's collar right away and quietly called Mocha.
When she came back I grabbed her by the collar and stood
in the middle of the road talking to the lynx. It studied
me for awhile longer, then got down off its perch, stepped
down onto the road and sauntered down the middle of it
away from me as though it had not a care in the world.
Finally, it crossed to the other side and disappeared
over the snow bank.
My intention had been to walk down the road but the last
thing I wanted was for the dogs to take out after it.
They are fearless and it's not because they're brave.
It's because they're really, really dumb.
Actually, to give them their due, neither have probably
ever seen a lynx before and just from they way they perked
up their ears and watched the lynx while I held them,
I think they thought it just another dog, albeit quite
a large one.
I turned the dogs around and held them until we got to
the trail into the woods across from our drive and let
them go there. As I entered the trail I turned once
to look back at where the lynx had disappeared and saw
him sitting under a tree just off the road, watching us.
The trail parallels the road for a way and it was necessary
to keep close tabs on the Lab when we came to where the
lynx had come out of the woods and continued on to the
road. She had seen it, now she could smell it, and she
really wanted to go see what it was. Not a chance
dog. Not only do I refuse to allow my dogs to chase wild
or farm animals, it's possible that a lynx
would do some cosmetic surgery on the dog if cornered.
And this, was a very large lynx. Not that
I've seen a huge number of lynx in my lifetime, because
We had lynx up in the woods where I was raised as a kid,
and throughout my lifetime I've seen them from a vehicle
driving down the road, from a snowmobile, or very rarely,
a glimpse or shadow while hunting moose. I have also seen
them dead both in photos and as pelts.
Although I've seen little sign in this particular area,
apparently there are a lot of lynx in this country. Trappers
relied heavily on them when the price of every other fur
dropped and I still remember bundles of pelts being
brought into Darcy at the Trading Store in Anahim Lake,
where he would sort through them and barter with the trapper
that brought them in. Darcy has sold out but I
think the present owner is also a fur trader.
Lynx is also very valuable as a hunt animal and more than
one outfitter brings in hunters for lynx every fall and
winter. This winter, with all the early snow, has been
a little tough on the outfitters though. It's just too
deep to hunt in. That same deep snow may also be why Andy
saw what he was sure was a lynx on his way to town the
other day. Perhaps they too have been pushed down out
of the higher elevations by deep snow.
This was the first time that I've had an opportunity
to actually study a wild lynx for a few moments.
I was really surprised at the size of this one. Most lynx
I have seen have always seemed long and lanky. This thing
was a furry butterball by comparison, and as I mentioned
before, it was big! I'm sure I'm not exaggerating when
I say it stood the same height if not slightly higher
than our River dog at the shoulder. Weight would be impossible
to determine because there was no question that its fur
was very thick but since the largest of the four species,
the Canadian Lynx, can go to 65 pounds, then that wouldn't
seem unreasonable at all for this bird. Of course
it's always possible that it was a pregnant 'she', explaining
its obvious 'fatness' but since they're just going
into their breeding season, that seems highly unlikely.
We've all noticed that this seems to be an exceptional
year for hares and there were a lot of grouse around this
fall. Given that these are the staples of the lynx diet,
I think our buddy is just plain fat. Supposedly, the lynx
range extends over about 18 square miles in a normal year.
That would certainly explain why you don't see this secretive
animal very much. However, when there's a high density
of prey, and kit survival much higher than usual, then
you're probably much more likely to see a lynx at the
end of your driveway...I guess.
The funny thing about seeing the lynx today was that I
saw what I thought might be cat tracks on the trail yesterday
with the rounded toe and no claws. Nah, I thought, they
must just be melted out dog tracks. In any case, I was
kicking myself all the way home and I told Andy to not
allow me out the door again without a camera, no matter
where I was going. As he so pointedly responded,
"There is a reason why they come with
a strap to go around your neck."
Well, picture or no, all I can say is, this sure is a
cool place to be in winter!
Monday Morning Blues
snow is melting. I don't know whether that's a good thing
or a bad thing. I had hoped that we would get some warm
temperatures to settle the snow a bit, but I didn't
expect to lose a foot in less than 24 hours!
On Saturday night it snowed a bit and then our temperatures
started to climb so that when I went to bed, they were
actually higher than they had been all day. On getting
up it was a glorious day with sun shining and the temperature
just above freezing. Seemed like a good time to get the
deck completely clear of snow again and let the left over
frozen spots thaw and finally dry out.
I was so optimistic about finally seeing warmer temperatures
and the calm day, I actually pulled something out to fix
out on the barbeque on the front deck. That was
a mistake. By suppertime the wind was howling
and even though temps were above freezing I couldn't keep
enough flame under the barbeque to even heat the meat
up until we hung a tarp over the railing.
All day I watched lumps of snow plop off the trees and
sift down through the branches, while great avalanches
of snow came roaring off of the roof.
I was really happy to see the trees finally clear. They
had still been fairly loaded with snow after the last
big snowfall and there was some concern that the next
big wind storm would start snapping them. That was
the good part.
The bad part was waking up this morning and discovering
that our beautiful snow had dropped about a foot and I'm
not sure that's an exaggeration. I think we were
all keen on seeing a bit of a warm up to settle the snow,
providing a base and just making it easier to get around.
I didn't expect to see it drop so much in
such a short period of time. It was a bit of a shocker
to get up this morning and see so many things exposed
that we haven't seen in awhile. There's still lots of
snow, but with above freezing temperatures and a wind
to carry away the moisture, too many days of this will
take it down in a hurry!
If we get the cold weather predicted for a couple
of days from now, the moose, caribou and deer will be
in deep, deep trouble. The snow will freeze over
building a crust that the predators can run on freely,
while the big game will break through with each step.
How quickly the tables have been turned from being
a disadvantage to wolves and coyotes, and soft
deep snow being of a great advantage to the big game.
I think that those are just the conditions that cause
such large losses in our wild animal herds and there isn't
a single solitary thing you can do about it. The only
thing the animals can do under those circustances is stick
close to human habitation because wolves won't.
It sounds like a few of the guys have gotten together
and finally repaired the line going up onto Little Kappan,
or TV Hill, as it's called. The power line that
provides radio and television to the area snapped under
the load of our first snow months ago leaving
the community without that communication system. Deep
snow, lack of extra line and many other diffiiculties
have prevented its repair prior to this, but not for lack
of trying. A snowmobiling friend from across the border
called the other day on the hunt for a breaker of the
proper amperage after helping to make the repairs. That
was all that was needed to test the line but I don't know
if they found one or not.
TV Hill was going to be the location of a new wi-fi
tower this spring and our community association wanted
to use the radio station up there for an early warning
system in case of a building fire or forest fire.
But you need electricity for all of that. Kudos to those
guys that managed to repair the line.
Above on the right is a picture taken by friends of ours
that were visiting over Christmas and used to live at
Nimpo Lake. Should you come out to the Chilcotin,
you will pass the Native graveyard just before Redstone
on Highway 20. Even the time worn colors of some of the
crosses and fences really stand out in the snow.
Last week's articles are at January,
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!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!