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Wilderness Adventures - Jan., Week Four/2011

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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31/01/2011 7:30 PM

The Cold Spell

You know that cold spell I mentioned a couple of days ago? Well it came but I was wrong about thinking it might make it to 30 below. The temperature actually dropped to -32.6C or -27F yesterday morning. It didn't warm up much through the day either. I don't think it made it up above -13C yesterday even though the sun shone all day. It dropped again fairly quickly yesterday evening but then stopped at just below -24C or -11F and stayed there through the night.
The temperature actually got up to -7C or 19F in the sun today, but though there was barely a breeze, it was really chilly out on the lake.
Andy talked me into leaving the computer for a little while and taking a walk out on the ice road because he wanted to show me something.
Yesterday I watched as he crossed the lake with his dually for the first time in a few days. Because the ice road had overflow on it, he stayed off of it during the warm weather to keep from rutting it up but he figured after Saturday's frigid night, it would be well frozen. Well, it wasn't. I wondered what was happening as he crossed because he was going really, really slowly. Once it looked like he stopped for a moment and then surged forward again. I finally glimpsed water splashing up onto the banks on either side. Turns out it wasn't just water!
We walked out there today and the farther along the ice road, the worse it got. Big ice pans were tossed all over the place, many up to two inches thick. Farther along, they were three and more inches thick! When Andy drove across on the road he realized too late that the water that had been on the road during the warm spell had frozen on top. That layer varied from one to over three inches thick the farther along he went. Under that was a layer of water that looks like it was six to eight inches deep, and then under that was the lake ice. Since the truck is a one ton diesel, a lot of the weight is on the front and he broke through that layer of ice to the water underneath. His tires couldn't climb back up on the ice and he couldn't go backwards. That meant he had to keep breaking ice in front of him shifting down as he lost power. He finally made it to the other side but boy, did he mess up that road! There are huge chunks of ice piled up all over the road, frozen into the water that had been underneath, some pointed upward like teeth. The way all that ice is jumbled up in piles frozen into the surface, I don't think the ice road is going to be passable to anyone for most of the rest of winter. If it really warms up and melts some of that ice so it's not sticking up so much, then maybe it can be used again. Otherwise.....
Of course Andy would never have gone on the ice road had he known that would happen, but you figure with a -33 night, any water should be well and truly frozen through. Apparently not and I don't expect we'll be any too popular with the neighbours. :-)
That water under the double layer of ice isn't the only surprising thing with the lake. Even after two very cold nights, step off the ice road a couple of inches into snow, and you'll sink into slushy water. Now keep in mind it hasn't been anywhere close to above freezing for three days now, and there's still a tremendous amount of water on top of the lake ice under the snow. It's definitely a very unusual year! Yet more spider holes have opened up right in front of our place so I think caution on the lake is in order.
Our warming trend looks like it may hit tonight or early tomorrow. Right now we're at -11C but Prince George is at -20C and Williams Lake is -17C when both should be warmer than we are. But the jet stream is going way up north into the Yukon and then dips back down well west of the central Cariboo. That means for now, we'll be much warmer than the Cariboo and possibly even the Okanagan. Suits me! I like a little change up now and then.
And anything beats those poor beggars getting it in the east. Wow! That's a storm that's packing a wicked punch! It looks like quite a few States will be affected by this storm, but Ontario and the Maritimes are going to get their share of snow, freezing rain and wind. I feel sorry for the folks in the Maritimes for getting hit yet again but the people in Ontario? They could use some winter. They had waaay too nice a winter last year.
29/01/2011 7:00 PM

Spring has come and gone

Hi Everyone! I know it's been a week since I posted a blog and there's been a couple of reasons for that. I've been really busy with the property assessment stuff for locals in the area on top of a large job that I have to do that will take most of the winter and spring. Unfortunately my hip has really started acting up again which means I try to reduce the time spent on the computer as much as possible, saving the time I do have to be on for paid work and deadlines. So thank you ever so much for your patience. I would like to say the blogs will be posted more regularly, but until my hip gets better, probably not.
We have enjoyed absolutely fantastic weather for the past week. Our days have been sunny and warm and some nights the temperature has even stayed above freezing. While we got the tiniest bit of rain, more like a mist, really, we got no snow, so it was a week to be enjoyed. Of course all good things have to come to an end, as we all know. Yesterday it snowed most of the day but very fine flakes, so it only built up to about 4 inches of super fluffy snow. Still, it has to be shoveled or plowed.
The weathermen have been forecasting a high pressure system moving in which as usual, will bring colder temperatures.
I mentioned to Andy that it would be nice if it snowed just a skiff before it turned cold to provide traction. Because there had been so much melt over the past week, everything everywhere was super slippery, including our pathways and driveway. When walking up the hill with the dogs our chances of falling down or sliding backwards were much better than not. If it snows when the ice pack on the ground is still relatively warm, the new snow will stick and provide traction for walking or driving, kind of like sand paper. I asked for a skiff of snow but somebody forgot to turn the faucet off and we ended up with four inches instead. Of course Andy had to tell everyone at a large birthday party last night that it was my fault it had snowed. Trust me, I took some grief for that. But that's okay. I found out who's fault it was that we got that 20 inches prior to that!
The warm weather of the past week pretty much completely screwed any chance of using the lake until spring, if at all, for the rest of the winter. The overflow is just terrible all over the lake and getting stuck with an under-powered machine is a real possibility. Unfortunately, that happened to one of our neighbours when he ended up in overflow along the shore. He and his wife walked home but I understand the snowmobile is now frozen into a block of frozen slush. It'll be fun getting that out!
Quite a few people have mentioned nearly getting stuck on the lake and Andy was shocked at how much water there is under the snow when he went across on his machine to get the mail the other day. As a result, most people are avoiding riding on the lake except the guys that go riding across the lake to Dot Island where they can pick up trails into the mountains. Can't walk on it, can't ski on it, and difficult to ride on kind of ruins the winter part of the lake. Hopefully, this coming cold spell will change that. The warm weather will have settled the snow on the ice some. Hopefully that has knocked some of the insulation out of the snow and the water between it and the lake ice will freeze up. Hopefully....
Andy just drilled some holes and checked the ice and shockingly, it hasn't grown at all! We had 12 inches of ice pretty much everywhere for the New Year's Party and that's all there is out there now. Just. So in a month, it hasn't even grown and inch and may have lost ice in places. The only thing we can think of is that so much runoff came into the lake this fall that it's actually warming up and degrading the ice from underneath. One sign of that is how high the Dean River has stayed all winter and how much water is still flowing out of the lake. Andy has suggested that we may have ice on for as long as ever, but it may start getting rotten a lot sooner this spring. As it is, we've avoided the ice road for the past day or so because all this melt was breaking it up. It should be fine again after one good, cold night and I think tonight is going to be that night! It's already down to -16C or 3F and I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see it drop to 30 below in the next couple of days. It's supposed to be cold until at least next Thursday which doesn't thrill me terribly. On the other hand, just having warm weather was such a break that it made the last of this month fly by, and makes more cold weather a lot easier to take. Besides, if it's cold it's usually clear and if it's clear, it's pretty out. To look at anyway. :-)
We have seen such an unusual phenomenon on the lake this year. I noted a few weeks ago that there were a lot of spider holes out on the lake when I was skiing. Our neighbours ended up unable to use their skating rink recently or even go down on the lake in that area because of spider holes that opened up nearby. We've never had spider holes off our point before but Andy noticed four in a row a week or so ago. Then this morning when I took my first look out over the lake from the breakfast table, lo and behold, there was a mother of a spider hole right in line of sight and not that far off our shore. That's the first time we've ever seen one like that in front of the house! An hour or so later while out cleaning off the deck, I noticed another four had opened up farther out. That's just weird! It was down to -14C last night, and yet those holes opened up and there was water in them. The one in front was plenty large enough to swallow a dog, the front end of a sled or a cross country skier for that matter, so I think a lot of caution is going to have to be used on the lake this winter. We just can't figure out what's causing so many to be on the lake this year and in places we've never seen them before. What I wouldn't do to talk to an expert on it! Everyone has a theory as to the cause of a spider hole, but we can't really make any of them fit all the circumstances.
Oh, and for those of you that might be new to the blog, a spider hole is a hole through the lake ice to water below with arms radiating out from the center hole making the whole thing look like a black cartoon sun in the ice. Water bubbles up through the hole and the arms and melts any snow over top, which is how you know one is open. They can vary in size from just a few inches across to several feet across. Once the snow is melted over top, they often skim back over, but you never know how much ice is covering the hole. Those you can avoid. The ones that I really watch when skiing are ones that have skimmed back over and then there's been a skiff of snow on them. You don't see them until you're almost on top of them, but you still don't know how thick the ice is under that snow. I took some pictures of spider holes from the deck but unless you're right over top of them or flying over them, their star shape doesn't really show up.
Oddly, we noticed that nearly all the ponds that we passed along the highway when we went to Williams Lake had spider holes in them including Williams Lake itself. So there had to be a widespread environmental cause, and late fall runoff fits the bill for that but it would be nice to know the mechanics. If fall runoff is the reason for so many spider holes, then how does the runoff cause them?
22/01/2011 7:30 PM

Changes in Properties for Sale

I've had reason to contact people on the properties for sale pages because of our outlandish property assessments this year. It turns out that pretty much everyone on the lake has had their assessed values go up by around 22%, which is utterly ridiculous. It isn't just our assessments. Folks on Anahim Lake and Charlotte Lake had their values go up as well. It wouldn't be so bad if the mill rate was going to go down and our taxes not move much. But everywhere else, including in the city centres of Williams Lake, Quesnel and 100 Mile, either the assessments have gone down or if they have gone up, it's only been by about 4%. So that means if we see a 22% increase in our property assessments, then we will see a corresponding rise in our property taxes. If there were a lot of sales in our area to warrant that rise, I could see it, but there hasn't been. So..... we're all going to submit our complaints and do battle with the Assessment Authority. I suspect their view is if you can afford to live on waterfront, then you can afford to pay higher taxes than anywhere else. Sounds a little childish doesn't it? But after talking to people who have had to deal with the two Assessors for our area, both women, childish doesn't begin to describe what we may be dealing with here. Especially with regard to the Assessor handling the Charlotte Lake properties. She sounds like a real winner, winner. So we'll see what happens.
Because I had to speak to quite a few people with properties for sale on the website, I also got new prices from a few of them. Many folks lower their prices on their properties but forget to tell me, so my site ends up reflecting a higher price than it should. So if you're interested in buying in the area, go check it out. One resort (Vagabond) has dropped substantially in pricing as has a cabin on a lot and a house and property on the Dean River. I also have a new listing as you can see below.
This property was listed a while back but I took it off when I thought the property had sold. It's back on now and reduced to sell at $40,000. It includes a house and over 5 acres of land. The owner has other properties and just wants to get rid of it. It's a handyman special but a heck of a deal for anyone that would like to be just a couple of hundred yards away from Nimpo Lake, but not pay the waterfront taxes like the rest of us poor slobs. :-) About $20,000 worth of work would fix the house up nicely. It needs a new roof and the electrical wiring to be upgraded and some cosmetic work. The sun deck overlooks a pond at the back and lots of wilderness privacy you can call your own. There are also other building sites on the property. It's selling for $85,000 under this year's assessed value. The owner wants serious inquiries only please.
Our weather has been terrific the last few days. We've been well above freezing during the day and it hasn't been too bad at night, around -8 to -11. Today we got up to 4.7C or 40F in the shade, and you should have felt how warm it was in the sunshine. It was incredible! At least until the wind kicked up making it feel a little chilly and bringing in some nasty clouds. We watched the storm move over the mountains this afternoon and make its way over the lake. By supper there was a blizzard coming in sideways. Thankfully, it only lasted for a short time and dropped only a skiff of snow.
I'm not sure how things will be for the next few days. The jet stream is way to the north of us so it will definitely continue to be warm but it also looks like there will be storms running along the coast until Wednesday. It seems like we'll just be on the edge of it so we could catch a lot of snow, or nothing. I guess we'll see when we see. In the meantime, I am enjoying the warmth! Yes, water is dripping everywhere and it does make things extremely slippery, but it's worth it and I'm going to enjoy every moment that I can!
I love the brilliant blue skies that we have in winter here when we do see the sun. And the snow is so white that with the sun shining on it, it's nearly blinding. Trying to get a good picture of the lake when the sun is out is nearly impossible as you can see up on the right. There's so much light bouncing around that everything in shadow just looks black, while everything else except for the sky is stark white. Still, you throw some warm temperatures in on top of all that bright white and light and life is good.
On the other hand.... not so good for those poor buggers on the East coast. They're getting hammered by yet another storm that brought high winds, freezing rain and snow. They've been averaging about one nasty storm a week for the past seven weeks and it's no wonder that everyone wielding shovels on camera look so resigned. The States have not fared much better. Right now it looks like my brother in Ohio is freezing his butt off with temperatures actually much colder than ours.
You'll find last week's blog at January Week Three..

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!
Blue skies and fresh snow.
Hole in lake ice.
Pink skies in the morning.
Pink sunrise on the horizon.
Sun shines brightly on lake snow.
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