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Wilderness Adventures - July, Week 2/2008

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' about the Lakesounds just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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Check out the Picture of the Day.

17/07/2008 10:15 PM

The News

So, it begins. The news this past week does not bode well for the future economic good health of North America. It's an unhappy state of affairs and a dire premonition of things to come when there's a run on a bank. Depositors wary of IndyMac's precarious position as pointed out by Senator Schumer, withdrew 1.3 billion dollars in a period of only about two weeks. Had the Feds not closed the doors, that would have increased exponentially. After the collapse of that bank, questions were raised about another in an equally precarious position, Washington Mutual, who is projecting losses of up to 19 billion dollars. Sub prime mortgages rears its ugly head yet again.
We were watching CBC last night and surprisingly, they had a well researched blurb about California, apparently the birthplace of the sub prime mortgage. The journalist was talking about the massive numbers of container ships that come into California's ports. When times were good and the American public were in their credit card fueled buying frenzy, 43,000 trucks hauled out of the docks a day. 43,000! I thought perhaps I had heard wrong but we watched the same story an hour later and that was the figure. That's a lot of shopping, folks!
The journalist said that's pretty much dead now. It started dying last fall when Americans started feeling unease with a looming recession, and thousands had to hand their homes back to the bank. Willingly or not. So much for the 'American Dream' espoused for the last decade or so. That every American has the right to own a home. Yes....but you have to have a job.
One man interviewed that has lived on a very short street in a high end neighbourhood in California on which there are now five homes standing empty, said that there was a buying frenzy and bidding wars where the value of houses there doubled in less than two years. He stated that the way that a lot of his previous neighbours had purchased those homes were based on very shady lending practices. People wanting to borrow money lied about their income, needed no down payment, had 40 year mortgages, and many were interest only.
There is something very wrong with everything in that last sentence. What happened to banks checking on your employment record and income? That's what always happened whenever I borrowed money, and everyone else that I know borrowed money, and when I was in Real Estate, I know the banks always checked on my clients. That's what pre-approved meant. It was a long, drawn-out process. It didn't happen overnight and lying about your income got you zero.
No down payment. That's a new one on me. The whole idea of a 5% minimum down payment in Canada is so that you are invested. You have some serious money to lose if you walk away from a house. 25% if you buy raw land. I know. I bought raw land more than once and it always bit me. Why in heaven's name would any bank loan anyone money without some investment on that individual's part?
And don't get me started on 40 year mortgages, or interest only mortgages. For the first one, if you have to stretch your mortgage over 40 years in order to make the payments? You can't afford to buy that house. Maybe you need to look at a smaller house or a trailer or raise some more down payment money. Now there's a concept!
Interest only. That one just flabbergasts me. Doesn't anyone do math anymore? I mean, I was great at history but lousy at math in school and I can still figure out the an interest only loan means you will be paying forever and through the nose for something that you will never be able to afford to actually own. So why do it? Why not rent? No taxes, no upkeep, maintenance, repair or high insurance rates. Why would you get an interest only loan? For the life of me, I cannot figure out one good reason.'re going to win the lottery? Suddenly be promoted from auto mechanic or head hamburger flipper at McDonald's to the CEO of Microsoft? What would make you think that your life circumstances are going to change to such an extent that you can suddenly make payments against the principal on your home if all you could afford when you bought it was an interest only loan? You know what I think? I think that people out there knew that what they were doing was not right or was dangerous to their economic future, but they all wanted to be the Smiths living next to the Jones. Or as the interviewee said last night, if you were a standing, breathing body, the banks would find a way to lend you money. The lenders can definitely be blamed for the mess, but ultimately, the borrowers have to take the blame as well. And pleeeze....Don't give me this, "I didn't know interest rates would go up or the market value of my home would go down." If you don't know the basics of economics, then you have no business buying a home. It's going to be the biggest purchase of your life. It will be your ball and chain. So you really need to learn about it before signing your name on the dotted line. American Dream or not, you may have the right to own a home, but like anything in this life, you have to earn it!
I was going to go into the Canadian housing market that was on the news tonight, but I just realized my little diatribe has gone over length so maybe I'll do that tomorrow.
Mixed sun and cloud today, with more cloud than sun. Cool temperatures and a wind that kept switching. But hey! Andy went out to catch another fish for dinner to supplement yesterday's and caught a beauty in less than ten minutes right out in front of the house. It's great fishing, that's for sure!

15/07/2008 8:55 PM

Wonderful Weather

Finally! Two days in a row! I know I'm pressing my luck but dare I say SUMMER? I know I'm going to regret this. It will probably snow tomorrow but it really has felt like summer the past couple of days. Hot weather, just enough breeze to keep from getting sunstroke, and the mozzies are hiding. You will find them if you go looking in cool shady spots, but otherwise it's a real pleasure to be able to work outside now.
This will be a pretty short article tonight because now I have to try to fit computer work around working outside, and I'm afraid computer work is going to have to take second fiddle for right now. You never know how long the weather is going to last and I for one plan to take advantage of every moment of it!
My plants are loving that great warm ball in the sky which they've seen very little of this spring and summer. I moved those poor, sorry, pathetic zucchini from one side of the berm to the other and put them next to the only one that's producing anything. I did it in the height of the day when it was as hot as hot can be. It was my revenge for their poor performance. This is their last chance to shape up and produce some zucchini, or I'll put something else in their place.
All the rest of the veggies are perking right up and I actually have one tomato tentatively turning color. It won't be edible of course, but at least I have one. Tomorrow I'll cut some leaf lettuce and Swiss Chard and see how bitter it is. I even went overboard and planted more seed today, just on the off chance that it doesn't snow tomorrow.
I've had to keep a close eye on the temperature at night before going to bed. Yesterday morning was a close call with only one degree above frost. Since they had frost at the north end of the lake, I think that the only thing that saved us was the fact that we are surrounded on three sides by water. Still, it's been heating up quickly in the last two days and last night it stayed several degrees above freezing.
It's been wonderful having mostly clear skies during the day but for the last two nights, it's been breathtaking! There's been a fat moon building with a hint of yellow that's been sparkling on the water for a good part of the night and it's just beautiful. Man, I like nice weather!
Heidy over at Charlotte Lake sent me the link to an article about mosquitoes in Canada this year. Apparently the experts verify that there actually are larger than normal numbers this year all across Canada. Part of it is attributed to the cool, late spring and lots of rain across several provinces, delaying the first generation hatch. Once it warmed up, everything came at once and people all across the nation are complaining about the mosquitoes. I know that it was pretty tough to find and purchase spray, coils, or zappers in a lot of the stores in Williams Lake and Prince George a week ago.
I'm happy to say that our Mosquito Magnet is working like a hot darn! Andy had to empty the little basket after only half a week of use and it was packed full. It's already filling up again. I realize that there is no way such a thing could possibly keep up to our mosquito population, but if it even cuts down on the critters around the deck and entrance to the house, that's a huge help. Besides, there's something very satisfying about at least feeling proactive about combating the little buggers aside from smelling like every kind of DEET product on the market. Even the dogs are tired of smelling like bug spray.
I've run out of time and probably won't change out the pic of the day, although if I could get my hands on a neighbour's pic..... Apparently it was taken when he just arrived at his summer residence at the other end of the lake....three full rack Mule bucks walking all in a row across his yard. Now that's cool. But then again, we had fresh buck tracks in our new lawn the other day. I guess keeping the dogs in away from the bugs for the past few weeks has made the local wildlife much bolder.
Oh yeah. I just heard friends went out fishing and got a bunch of beautiful big rainbow trout out of the lake at the north end of Nimpo today. Come fishing folks!

13/07/2008 7:13 PM

Sunny Weekend

I would like to congratulate the Lower Mainland people on their sunny weekend. The same didn't go for us. Although it got up to 22.5C or about 70F degrees today, it was another day of mixed sun and cloud. I took the dogs for a walk through the back woods for the first time in weeks and while the sun was shining it was wonderful, but once clouds came up, the mosquitoes came out. We made it home intact though. Probably because it was in the middle of the day and a bit too hot for bugs.
The guys went out on four wheelers today cutting trail so that the Charlotte Lake folks don't have to wait for the lake to freeze up in January before being able to join us snowmobiling up on Trumpeter. The group has been working on the trail for weeks now but this is the first time Andy has been able to join them. He's been way too busy doing stuff for other people or the community and not taking the time out for himself. Although I don't know if he did that today or not. He came back pretty grubby, bug eaten and worn out. Still, hanging around with that bunch is usually a lot of fun, even if you are working your tail off!
I was outside today when I noticed that little white hawk I spoke about this winter zig zagging through our trees. Actually, I might not have noticed him at all because he was so fast and so silent, if a bunch of little tiny birds in the trees hadn't started doing a whole lot of chirping. Usually the hawk appears and disappears just as quickly but this time he kept working back and forth through the trees along our shoreline. I ran in to get the camera in the hopes he would stick around, but of course he had disappeared by the time I got back outside.
Last night we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and fire over at the neighbours and got our first look at their baby loon. Our neighbour said that yesterday was the first day the baby had started diving and last night he was quite content to fish alone while his parents fished farther out. At least if he can dive now hopefully the eagles won't get him. It explains why I've heard so many warning calls from the loon pair from over that way lately whenever an eagle has been in the vicinity.
It looks like there is another high pressure system building in off the coast and I'm hoping it stretches up and gets us this coming week. The Lower Mainland has been enjoying the highs but the jet stream keeps going right over the top of us, bringing unsettled weather. I keep hoping that at some point this summer we'll get a strong enough high over us that will hold for a week or two and finish off these mosquitoes.
The woods are pretty darn dry right now but I still wouldn't mind seeing one good hot week. So far, there have been a lot of little fires around the Cariboo Chilcotin, but the fire center hasn't had anything run away from them yet and I'm assuming that the forest fire up in the Itcha Illgatchuz has been mopped up. Every day like clockwork the helicopter has come back around supper time with its Initial Attack crew. I don't know if the IA crew is working a fire, or if they're bird dogging and just keeping an eye out for one. Probably both but we do have a lookout station up on Little Kappan and I'm assuming that it's manned this year.
Okay...gotta go. I played hooky from the computer today and have to do some catching up now. I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

11/07/2008 9:33 PM

Rimarko's Misty Past

I was extremely fortunate to get an email with some more information about Rimarko Ranch a few days ago, and the fellow that sent it has given me permission to reprint it.
"I lived at Rimarko Ranch for about 3 months in the summer of 1977. I was 16 years old. I got a job there with my friend Blair Gough. His neighbor in West Vancouver got him the job and then left. It obviously wasn't too safe for one person to be there alone so they brought me in.
We were hired by Cham Morse, Charley's son. It was one of the most, if not the most, memorable periods in my life. We were hired as caretakers and tasked with keeping the animals alive and well. We spent about 2 months alone on the ranch. We'd drive the Caterpillar tractor and Crawler around for fun and go to the dump for target practice with our 30-06 and 308 Winchester. We also fished and went horseback riding frequently. We lived off fresh eggs, trout, evaporated milk and bulk stored items in the Rimarko Ranch pantry.
Once a week (or thereabouts) we'd make the horse ride to Fred Engebretsen's farm where our truck was parked. The road to the ranch was too difficult to traverse without 4-wheel drive and winches. We'd drive into Nimpo Lake to pick up supplies and try to find a party. Usually we'd sleep in Fred's barn before heading back to the ranch.
In our final month there, Cham Morse came to the ranch. He immediately put us to work (something we had grown accustomed to not doing much of) building a fence around a swampy field. Chad was a California playboy who loved to tell us stories of his exploits with Playboy bunnies and the high life he lived in his youth.
As far as I know the resort never did operate again after Charley quit running it. For a California city boy Cham was a fairly handy guy. When he came to the ranch he repaired the generator so that we had electricity and we butchered one of the steers.
I could go on and on about the great adventures that summer but I'll save it for another day. Cheers to all the folks living in that wondrous part of the world!! I hope to return someday soon.
John Wilson
Bellingham, Washington"

John said in his email this morning that he and Blair were talking and have decided that in August they would like to return to Rimarko for the first time since 1977. I hope to meet them then and very much look forward to more stories and seeing some photos that John has, sometime in the future. The mystery in which Rimarko Ranch has long been shrouded is fascinating to me. So if anyone out there knows anything or has any experiences with the place besides the folks we've been fortunate enough to hear from so far, please write!
Today was another good day. I was stuck inside on the computer until early afternoon, which was unfortunate because it was beautiful outside. And it froze this morning, bonus when it comes to bugs. A lot of mosquitoes can hide down in the grass but lots still get frozen out. Or it slows them down anyway.
I kept watching the thermometer last night and it was falling pretty good. Somewhere between midnight and one in the morning it hit 3C and was still sliding downward, so I went out and fought with the plastic in the dark that I use to cover my poor, pathetic veggies. I honestly do not know why I keep trying to protect them. The tomatoes hanging on those vines have been there for about two months, are still green, and if they ever do turn red, it'll be like eating little rocks. And the zucchini still can't get their breeding program right. I swear, I must have all males on one side of the berm and only a single female on the other or something. Even by pollinating with a Q-tip I can't seem to make the zucchini grow past four inches in length. C'mon! Have you ever heard of anyone having a problem growing zucchini? Usually, if you're not in the Arctic, and it's after the end of July, you can't go anywhere without someone trying to press a zucchini the size of a small car on you. And here I can't grow one big enough to put on the kitchen table. Just one zucchini. That's all I ask.
Oh well, at least the cherry tomatoes out on the deck are producing, mainly because I've been able to bring the plant indoors whenever it's gotten too chilly or windy. The skins on some of the tomatoes are a little tough but still great for eating! Unlike the way those things out in the garden are going to taste!
I spent a part of the afternoon spraying down around the hangar where next weekend's BC Floatplane Association AGM is going to be held, trying to knock back the mosquitoes for the meeting. Even in tall grass I saw maybe two mosquitoes in total all afternoon, probably because it was so hot and dry. Everyone we've spoken to in the past couple of days are all smiles, thinking that maybe we're slipping past bug season, finally! But tonight when Andy took the dogs for a walk, he and two of them came back at a dead run, the bugs were so bad. They left River behind because he's so pokey and they were being eaten alive. River finally ambled up the driveway a few moments later and made it into the porch. It looks like the stuff from the vet is starting to work because the dogs didn't come in with nearly the mosquitoes on them that they normally would. Andy, on the other hand, was pretty disheveled looking when he came flying in, because he didn't spray down before going out.
After dark with a warm wind blowing....I wouldn't go out without an iron suit on! But the bugs are getting better. Honest!
10/07/2008 9:48 PM

I Take It Back About Trading Places

We ended up with a pretty nice day after all, albeit a little chilly. There was a fresh skiff of snow on the mountains this morning and while it didn't get down to freezing here, it was certainly cool. We finally gave up and started a fire in the woodstove last night because the house was so cold and kept it going through the day. We probably didn't have to because once it cleared up and the sun started shining early this afternoon, it warmed up pretty good indoors. Outside was another matter. Unless you were really working in the sun, a short sleeved shirt wasn't the thing to wear, and when we went for a short walk this evening, I was sorry I hadn't donned a jacket.
I'm not sure what the weather was supposed to do according to the weather forecasters. I didn't watch them today and missed them on the news tonight because we had company. Sometimes I think you're better off not having any clue what they say the weather is going to do. That way, you're not disappointed when they are wrong, as they so often are. Besides, by missing the weather tonight, I didn't have to put up with the weatherman's smugness about what nice weather they had in Vancouver today. All I caught at one point was that most of us would be lucky to see 16C as a high today (didn't even get near that) and someone saw snow flurries somewhere west of the Cariboo.
The best part about it being cold?
No bugs!
I think it was just too cool for them. It hasn't been nearly as humid in the last two days as it was previously. That and it's starting to really dry up quickly in the woods and meadows. There isn't nearly the standing water around that there was two weeks ago. I was able to mow lawns in two areas today and didn't scare up much in the way of mosquitoes at all. It's about time. It's going on the middle of July and the bugs should be slacking off by now. So get your gear and come on up folks!
The Mosquito Magnet is an interesting thing. It's obviously working because there are quite a few mosquitoes buzzing around inside of it. But frankly, as bad as they have been around here, you can catch bugs just by default. Leave an empty canning jar out on the deck and you'll catch bugs. Looking into the basket that the mosquitoes are held in is downright creepy. I don't like being swarmed at the best of times out in the open, but seeing that many buzzing around in a small space is not cool. They're supposed to dehydrate in there and die but I haven't seen any sign of that yet. I'm not sure how you empty the thing without letting a whole bunch of live skeeters go. I guess we'll figure it out.
We finally got some stuff for the dogs that we were told about and applied it tonight. You put it on their back and besides fleas (which we don't have here) and ticks (which we rarely have) the solution is supposed to repel and kill mosquitoes and black flies. It's only available through a vet and is supposed to last for a month. If the expense of it is any guide, it should work great, but some of that stuff can be a rip-off too. After all, vets need expensive vacations too, you know. However, it was recommended to us by someone that has a dog and has been living with the same mosquito convention over at Anahim Lake as we have, so perhaps it will work. I hope so. It would sure would be nice to start walking again. I can always bundle up and protect myself enough from bugs, but I just can't handle how the dogs just get eaten alive when we go. We'll give it a day or two and see how it works!

09/07/2008 6:49 PM

Trading Places

I think we need to seriously consider trading weather with the Lower Mainland. They seem to have stolen ours.
Watching the news tonight was enough to make you cry because the weather forecasters are announcing yet another hot, sunny, summer day with glee while we watch giant hail drum outside our window. I'm not sure when the weather Gods decided we should get Vancouver's dreary weather and they should get our sun, but it sure seems to have been that way for a long time.
Our new grass that was coming up nicely a while back seems to have stalled. Perfectly understandable given today's chilly temperature and I guess it means we don't have to water quite as much. The weather hasn't discouraged the mosquitoes one iota but we did get my Birthday present hooked up today. Oh yeah!....Mosquito Magnet!!
The Mosquito Magnet is a contraption hooked up to a propane tank with a little heat, an attractant, and a fan that helps to suck mosquitoes in when they come investigating from a 1/2 acre radius. A couple of people over on Charlotte Lake told us about them and said they were really pleased with theirs. The only thing is, for best results I really think you have to start them up in about mid-May and let them run right through the summer in order to slow all of the stages down. So for this summer, it might not do us a lot of good, but like Andy says, if it only captures 12 mosquitoes, that's 12 out of two million not able to bite us.
I have another property coming up for listing but this one is on gorgeous Charlotte Lake. Fran and Alice have been on Charlotte Lake for years, but Fran's frailty is taking a toll so these folks must move. It's a beautiful location and we've all enjoyed many a hot chocolate and coffee stop there after coming down off of Trumpeter Mountain on our snowmobiles in the winter.
I realize that two new properties for sale so close together is unusual, and honestly, it doesn't mean everyone's leaving the country at once. But we have reached an age plateau where quite a few residents that bought twenty, thirty or forty years ago have now reached an age where they are forced to say good-bye to the country. There's no getting around the fact that our pristine wilderness also means no hospital facilities, long term care or home care, or doctors. Our remoteness works against us on occasion for those folks getting older that have diabetes, Parkinson's, suffer from Alzheimer's or from other diseases. Age alone can be a big factor if you can no longer drive, walk on icy or uneven surfaces, or bring in firewood if that's how you heat your home. Nimpo Lake is remote enough at three hours and up for an ambulance ride, but Charlotte Lake is a little remoter still. In the case of all of our little communities, all it takes is one good snowstorm to block roads, and you have no access to medical care. That probably starts to worry folks that are getting a bit older and more dependent on medical services.
It's funny, but when you're in your thirties or forties, it's hard to think about growing old and how difficult some of the simplest things will be. Andy was really thinking about it when he built his house and did a good job of preplanning for the most part. While the master bedroom is presently in the loft with a bath, the second bedroom on the main floor is big enough to be a master and is near the main floor bath and laundry is also on the main floor. The loft could then be converted to a guest bedroom. We heat mainly with wood in a large wood stove in the basement, which would be a bad idea with all of the steps if we also didn't have a high efficiency propane furnace that can easily take over the whole heating job when the time came. The basement is easily accessed from the ground outside, while the main floor is easily accessed from the ground at the back door with only a couple of small steps to negotiate. However, if that ever got to be too much, then the deck can easily be ramped for a wheelchair and without steps for access. It's an excellent layout with a lot of thought put into it, but is it enough? I used to think so. Now I'm not so sure.
Our neighbour and a long time friend of mine has been slowly deteriorating with a debilitating disease. He's also 30 years older than me and that doesn't help much. Just in the last six weeks we have watched him get weaker and weaker, and less able to do for himself. Since he has no spouse or family closer than Vancouver, his friends and neighbours have all rallied to him, and we've all done whatever we could to help out. While it's easy enough for me to cook him meals easy to eat, and everyone else has supplied sweets, snacks, juices, good company and loads of help, it's a real hardship to watch someone who has always been strong, vibrant, and very much an outdoors person, flatly unable to negotiate even one stair. Unfortunately, all access to his home involves negotiating stairs of one sort or another. That's just one of the problems but it was a real shocker.
Just as he used to do in his own basement, we roar up and down our basement stairs numerous times a day, especially in winter when putting wood on the stove, and don't think a thing about it. Well, except for those times huffing and puffing up the stairs for the umpteenth time reminds you that you need to get back into shape. These last six weeks have been a real eye opener for us as our friend becomes more and more helpless, and reliant on others for the simplest things. And it's made us take a long, hard look at our surroundings, planning ahead any improvements that might help us in twenty years, or in case of the onset of disease.
Well, look at that! The sun is finally out. Of course it is every evening after you've given up on the day and are in for the night. Maybe tomorrow will be better. I'll try to get that new property up on the Property for Sale page tonight or tomorrow. In the meanwhile, last week's articles can be found at July Week One .

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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!
A fishing boat heads out onto Nimpo lake.
An Osprey against blue sky hunting for fish in the lake.
Atnarko River winds between bright green aspen trees.
Blue and white floatplane barely lifts off of a lake.
Looking over the edge of the Bella Coola Hill.
Steep dropoff on the Hill.
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