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Wilderness Adventures - July Week 3

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!
31/07/2005 3:39 PM

Last Day of July

Already! Tomorrow is about historical Chilcotin native graffiti or petryglyphs as they're more commonly known. I would like to have written on this subject today, but I've run out of image space on this page so it will have to be left for tomorrow's article.
We're getting rain today. Pretty much the first significant moisture we've seen for a week or two. It keeps the fire danger down and I for one am not sorry to see it. There are about 50 forest fires burning around the province right now which is unusually low. For the last few years, 400 or more has been the number of fires burning at this time of year. The last part of July and first half of August is usually our warmest and driest time of year, although September can be pretty toasty too. Unless we get some really high temperatures and sun from here on in, I don't think we're going to have too much to fear from forest fires this year. There was a pretty good one burning just north of Merritt last night that really took off fast. It looked like they had the main highway blocked for a short time there. It's looking pretty good around the province. A good part of the province seems to have been seeing the same kind of weather we have most of the summer. Other areas are picking up a little more sun now because we just seem to be in a belt right on the jet stream dropping moisture on us. Normally the jet stream would be much higher or further north this time of year. Our weather should really pick up now. It's supposed to be sunny with a high moving in next week and the month of August is generally a really beautiful month to be out fishing. So pack your bags and come on out!

30/07/2005 9:57 PM

Bugs, Bugs, and More Bugs

One by one, the neighbors are lamenting the attack on their trees. Like Dutch Elm disease or the Tent Catepillar, the Mountain Pine Beetle is an epidemic. Unlike the previous two, however, there isn't a whole lot you can do about it. Since flying last Saturday, the beetles have spread throughout the area in droves, attacking pine trees by the hundreds and thousands. It will be next year before the trees all turn red and show that they've died, and of course it's too late then. Since there doesn't seem to be a single thing a person can do with the infestations, the next best thing would be to plan for the future. We'll all have to plant alder, aspen and birch for summer cover because they're fast growers. They'll also protect existing young evergreens or any one goes out and digs up to bring home and replant. Most of us have a good mix of spruce and pine on our properties as well as on surrounding crown land, so it's not like the region will be without evergreens. It just won't have mature pine for a couple hundred years or so. A person might as well look at the positive side because it sure isn't doing any good to look at the negative. Just think of the improved views and the wide open vistas we'll have. More mountains and glaciers and lake in our living room windows. More sunshine, more sunsets, more sunrises. Even the northern lights will be easier to see! Hope I'm still feeling this positive when I see the sawdust at the base of all the pine trees in the morning....
29/07/2005 7:38 PM

Natives in Germany

Did you know that members of the Nuxalk tribe in Bella Coola went to Germany in 1885 as human exhibits? Apparently nine men of the tribe left the remote Bella Coola valley to travel 8000 miles by rail and steamship to Germany where they stayed for a year as part of a human exhibit. In Berlin they performed traditional native songs and dances for Europeans at zoos, museums, halls and other venues. Although it might seem an outrage today, in those times it was not

Photo taken from the Coast Mountain News
uncommon for indignous people from all over the world such as Asia, Africa and the South Pacific to be put on display in Europe and England. In museums in Berlin, Hamburg and Leipzig, there are hundreds of First Nations (Canadian Native) artifacts including paintings, carvings, masks and a totem pole carved by the Nuxalk tribesmen from Bella Coola 120 years ago. In addition there is documentation describing the songs and dances performed them. A documentary is being done now on the story about the nine men's year long stay in Germany as they performed for their audiences. A sub story in the documentary tells of two Nuxalk masks carved and used by the Bella Coola group of nine that were believed to have been destroyed in World War II, but were actually recovered from a Soviet museum after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. I find it fascinating that anyone could even find tiny, remote little Bella Coola over a hundred years ago much less convince tribesmen to leave their homeland for a year. But expansive and well preserved documentation says that they were paid a salary for their performances and that none were taken to Europe against their will. Can you imagine the stories they would have brought back to their homeland when they returned? Their fellow tribesmen would never have believed all they had to tell of their travels!
28/07/2005 1:25 PM

Great Gray Owl

I think there was a Canadian movie made in the last few years called Gray Owl about a native that had quite a bit of influence with the tribes and it turned out he was actually a white man. I digress. A friend of mine across the lake is a photographer. She's been kind enough to allow me to use a couple of her photos on this site; most notably the cow and calf moose standing in water and the moose running through water. If you haven't seen them yet, go to the Main Home Page or Wildlife where you'll find them intertwined with some text., they're beauties! She sent over this picture of an owl that she took this spring and just got the photo back from developing. I actually cropped the image so that you could get a close look at this ow that stands 22" tall and has a 60" wing spanl. My field guide describes the 'Great Gray Owl as rare and local at high elevations in north and central Sierra Nevada and Rockies' (they forgot Coastal Mountains), 'where it is found in pine and spruce forests. Common only in the Far North' (capitalization is theirs, and I guess we might qualify as far north because they are fairly common here.) 'The only other large owl with yellow eyes and no ear tufts is the Snowy Owl' (now those are a beautiful owl, and rare!) 'Voice is a deep, booming series of whoos, each lower in pitch'. I can vouch for that. Their voice actually carries quite a long ways through the woods at night and it isn't uncommon to hear them talking to each other throughout winter, especially about February, which seems to be their breeding season. The bird in the photo on the right doesn't look very large, but trust me they are. Especially when you're walking through the woods around Nimpo Lake and one glides over you and casts a pretty large shadow. I think that there is a legend that says if you see a gray owl in daylight, you or someone near you will die soon. Doesn't seem to have happened yet so that's a good thing!
27/07/2005 1:00 PM

Close Encounter of Our Own Kind

The Mountain Pine Beetle arrived on our property at Nimpo Lake last night. No bugs last night, but one of our oldest, most magnificent pine trees was infested with them this morning. The whole trunk is covered with holes with sap bleeding out of them as the tree fights for its life and there's a pile of sawdust at the base of the tree. These things are fast! The neighbour swears if you put your ear to the trunk of the tree, you can hear them chewing. If we can't save the tree, we'll have to chop it down onto the ice this winter while the larvae are still in it and burn it there so it can't infest nearby trees next year. It's such a shame when you consider how many years it took this old monster to grow the size it is. Unlike more temperate climates, it can take 250 years just to grow a tree with a 6" diameter here, much less one of this size. Although it may grow faster because it's near a source of water, you can bet it's still pretty old. You can see in the picture on the right the yellow and white sap and sawdust marks where the tree is trying to defend itself.
The bald eagle was dive bombing the loons again. This time a mature loon. It sure was getting close. Water would splash up just as the loon would dive under its talons. It kept up the attack for several rounds hoping to force the loon out of breath. It was hampered in it's efforts by an osprey that must have been hunting in the area and drove the eagle out of what it considered to be its territory. The eagle flew off to sit in a nearby tree about the time two immature bald eagles, one from last year, and possibly one from this year flew from across the lake to join it. This seems to be the last surviving loon baby on the lake this year because of the higher bald eagle population. I would like to see it make it until it's time to fly south. Right now, since it is still brown, it lays flat on the water when there is danger overhead, and quite possibly looks just like a log to the eagles while the mature loons try to draw the attention of the predators. Our life seems pretty easy in comparison to nature and what each species must go through not only to survive, but to successfully raise young every year.

26/07/2005 1:19 PM

Seeing the World From 18,0000 Feet

That's what cousin Maizy has been doing. Actually, she's a niece by marriage. But I like the 'cousin Maizy' thing because it sounds so ... 'Hollywood Hillbillyish' ... don't you think? She has been flying a plane at 18,000 feet above sea level, which would be about 14,000 feet above here when she went over. She's flying a GPS grid for a mapping company that is photographing central BC north to Fort St. John. Which on the one hand you might consider a little boring from a pilot's point of view flying back and forth on a strict grid. But can you imagine what you would get to see? As she commented on the phone last night, "You can see solid red from pine beetle kill from the Chilcotin and north clear to Fort St. John." Her other comment was, "That Lonesome Lake burn sure is big!" Yep, it was a big fire last year. Biggest in the province. And although I flew over it in a helicopter last year while it was burning, there's a lot you miss because of smoke. I haven't gotten a chance to see it from a fixed wing since, and certainly not from 18,000 feet. It would be much easier to gain a perspective from that height when you could probably see the burn in its entirety. I've put some pictures in on the right of the Lonesome Lake Fire taken this day exactly one year ago from Nimpo Lake. We sure got some wild sunsets then. Quite a contrast to our weather this year. It's a mix of sun and cloud this afternoon with much cooler temps than last year.
Since we're on the topic of flying high, congratulations to the successful blast off for the space shuttle 'Discovery' this morning. Nice to see us back in the sky.

25/07/2005 1:13 PM

Interesting Results on Tourism Study

The British Columbia Tourism Board came back from the US with some very interesting results. Throughout British Columbia, tourism operators have wondered why their industry is down in numbers this summer between 30% and up to 50%. There's no doubt that there has been a downturn in the most recent years because Canada has been hit with such a turn of bad luck. After 9/11 we had SARS, West Nile, bird flu, mad cow and lousy weather. But the numbers in the tourist industry this year are way down! Many operators have attributed it to a combination of a variety of things such as higher fuel prices, a higher Canadian dollar, and lousy weather. (Have you begun to notice a common denominator here? I'll put my money on that one!) But nope, those were not the answer to the province's woes. The Tourist Board attended meetings in the USA with their counterparts to find the answer to their burning question ... where are all the people? Guess what that answer was? The border. Apparently Americans are fed up with Canadian Customs officials and the long wait times. I can certainly see their point. Usually we are passed into the US fairly quickly and politely by the US customs officials. Coming back, however, is another story, even though our full time residence is in Canada. This last time, on the July long weekend was the exception to the rule. We were questioned far more closely, our ID checked and camper inspected by the American side and passed through quickly and courteously by a pretty girl on the Canadian side. So perhaps that is the reason behind the downturn from American tourist trade. But it doesn't explain the Canadian downturn. I talked to an operator on Nimpo Lake yesterday that says almost all of her business is from British Columbia with only a small percentage from the States. She is down by at least 50% this year, especially for June and July. She's pretty sure that fuel prices have had some effect but certain that the ... guess what ... lousy weather throughout BC has been the deciding factor for many vacationers this summer. Which means if it warms up and gets hot, August and September are going to be extremely busy months for local tourism operators.
24/07/2005 12:31 PM

Awesome Sunshine

And about time! Today would be an absolutely perfect day to go canoeing or fishing on Nimpo Lake. Just enough of a breeze to keep it cool, sunshine with a few puffy clouds and a view that goes for miles! However, we have cement to pour tomorrow morning for half of the new garage floor. The rest a few days after that. Saturday was the foundation pour for a new house for the owner of Nimpo Lake Resort, and Friday was a basement floor cement pour for the neighbour. The neighbour across the lake mixed and poured by hand with a crew on Thursday for some steps and retaining walls. Talk about making hay while the sun shines. Summer can be notoriously short in the West Chilcotin, although global warming may be changing that, so outside projects are attacked with enthusiasm and a sense of timetable driven desperation. A building is usually pushed to completion of the shell by fall so that the inside can be worked on in the winter using some source of heat. You definitely don't want to be working on something in -30 or -40F weather in the dead of winter without heat if you can help it. So, this will be a short article today and no fishing either. Darn.
23/07/2005 4:23 PM

The Mountain Pine Beetle

The Pine Beetle has flown. A fellow down at the south end of Nimpo Lake was clearing brush on his property with friends yesterday. They decided to go fishing after they finished up and upon their return, all the pine trees down on the water's edge were covered with thousands of pine beetles. The mountain pine beetle has been a plague for British Columbia for about the past 20 years and is at epidemic levels now. Thousands of square miles of lodgepole pine forest have been attacked resulting in the loss of useable wood to the lumber industry amounting in the billions. The pine beetle is a small black beetle that bores into the cambiam layer of wood just under the outer bark. They lay eggs which hatch into larvae. The larvae release a chemical that slows the trees ability to defend itself with sap as the larvae eats its way out of the tree. This results in the blue stain now known as 'denim pine' and the tree dies. All the pine needles on the tree turn a flaming red the summer following the attack and drop off the next year. See the pictures on the right. The tree is highly flammable at that point in time and whole forests of beetle-kill have caused nightmares to the BC Forestry firefighters. The larvae exit the tree through the bark and in mid July, adult beetle fly enmasse looking for new trees to lay eggs in. They used to only attack mature pine. Now there are such large numbers of them that they attack immature pine and have been seen in spruce as well. Sustained periods at -60F weather in winter is needed to knock the beetle population back. Unfortunately, we haven't seen winters like that in a long time. Apparently, a fellow from California said they used to have the same problem there. When asked how they ended the problem, he said that a really wet, rainy year stopped the spread. It makes sense that a well watered tree would be less stressed and more able to defend itself than trees that have been going through drought for the last ten years. So maybe our rainy summer is a super blessing!
22/07/2005 11:24 PM

Camping in Columbus, Ohio Versus Nimpo Lake?

Seems there might be a difference. I was just talking to my brother in Ohio tonite. He's just returned this spring from a stint in Iraq and he spent a few years in Canada when he was younger, so he has a bit more of a worldly, and possibly cynical view than most. He was giving me comparisons with camping in Nimpo Lake and campers in Ohio. It was hilariously funny and just showed what a wide gulf there can be. I'm not even sure that anyone in one age group can bridge that gulf. It's more about culture and background than age, I guess. When we were children, me being the oldest at 11 down to 7, we considered camping to be leaving home with what we could pack on our backs for a week including tents and a whole lot of tinned beans. I remember one time we took friends with us, did a 7 mile hike back of our ranch to a lake where no one was around for miles. They didn't even last the night. I remember the first rustle of the evening, the frogs croaking, ducks quacking and murmurs of dusk had them out of their tent and freaking. So in the middle of the night we were trekking them home. 7 miles down off the mountain, and 7 miles back to our camp in the dark through, now that I admit, some pretty keen bear country. It was probably foolish, but we had the supreme confidence of little kings that knew our kingdom. As we laughed, my brother pointed out his friends in Ohio and what their definition of camping was. He said they considered it to be 'roughing' it if they couldn't pick up a good signal for the satellite tv in their 45' motor home. Or if they forgot something like a can opener, they could just drive to a store a few minutes away. Unlike when we forgot a can opener once. You learn in real hurry how to use a knife to open a can because a 14 mile round trip hike is a long ways to go just for a can opener. And between you and me, I've never forgotten a can opener since. My brother was also pointing out that many people on the east coast just don't know what the stars actually look like. As he said, there's as many aircraft up there moving about at night as there are stars. Well not here. He was laughing about the one big airliner that goes overhead here once a day to Alaska and our local flight into Anahim Lake every day. The stars here are unmatched at night by anything but the moon and the northern lights! My brother said that camping in many places in the east is just a matter of lining up motor homes 35 deep in a row on a lake. And there's lots of rows. I guess that differs a lot from here. For one thing, there's no such thing as 35 deep. And for another, the camping experience here can be anything you like. Or as he said, unparalelled anywhere. You can camp at an RV site on the lake but the largest I know of in the country only has 22 spots and they're all tucked in among the trees. Check out Vagabond RV Park and Resort for a super place to camp. Or you can canoe, hike or fly into a remote area where there is no one else and you can walk land that no other human being has ever walked before you. Ever!
21/07/2005 7:46 PM

Big Fish ... Nice Weather

Finally! Nice weather and the fishing is great! It's been sunny the last couple of days. Nice change! We've had a full moon and clear skies at night, so it's still been cooling down. There has been intermittant cloud during the day so it really hasn't started heating up yet, but if this weather continues, it will. There's been lots of feed for the fish in the lakes this year with all the rain and runoff. As a result, we're seeing some pretty fat fish now. The one on the right is a 3 1/2 pound Rainbow trout caught out of Nimpo Lake yesterday. The fishing has really picked up and gotten quite good in the past week or so. And fighters. Lots of people are telling us of broken leaders. The size might help with that too. I look forward to seeing some really big, deepbodied fish come out of Nimpo Lake by this fall. I saw a 10 pound rainbow come out of the lake in 1992, and a 7.5 pounder in 2000, but those aren't common sizes in drought years. A rainy summer is just what we needed for good fishing. We've been watering using water out of the lake and it's surprisingly warm for this time of year with such a cool summer so far. Perhaps the rains have helped to warm the water up. This warm weather and less rain should cause the water levels to start dropping in the rivers. That includes the Atnarko and Bella Coola rivers which are popular salmon fishing rivers. A drop in the Dean River's water level will definitely improve the world famous fly fishing there. Water has been too high recently to wade the river. I'm starting on a new week now, so the past week's entries can be found at July 2 .

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!
Owl photo taken by Nimpo Lake resident Lise James
A gorgeous sunset courtesy of the forest fire, photo taken from Nimpo Lake
Thick, orange smoke from the Lonesome Lake Fire
A beautiful hot day on July 26, 2004 when the Lonesome Lake Fire takes off
A magnificent old pine infested with pine beetles overnight July 27, 2005
RV hookups on the lake
A gorgeous day in the West Chilcotin
Mountain Pine Beetle kill in Lodgepole Pine
Beetle kill in British Columbia
Immature Bald Eagle hunting above the lake shore
Young eagle on shore of Nimpo Lake
The picture on the right is of a fellow with two fish, one a 3 1/2 pound rainbow trout caught this week out of NImpo Lake
Rainbow Trout caught by a vacationer from Vagabond RV Park on Nimpo Lake
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