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Wilderness Adventures - June, Week 2/2011

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.

Rolling over an image will give you its description.
Check out the Picture of the Day.

16/06/2011 8:35 PM

The Bella Coola Hill Story

I have no new information about the deceased fellow found in his pickup over the side of the Bella Coola Hill nearly two weeks ago, other than one item that I came across that indicated the man was in his mid-forties and was from British Columbia. That information contradicts what I had heard earlier, so you've got me. Then again, I haven't been out and about to hear anything, so I guess it's my fault I don't 'know' anything.
The weather has finally turned the corner, I think, and we might actually be getting away from that early spring stuff. We had a good rain a couple of days ago but otherwise, it's been dry and we've had a few sunny days. It's been cool at night, though with only a couple of degrees showing above freezing on our thermometer and I understand it was white on everything with frost down at the north end of the lake this morning. It's been disappointing in that the days often cloud over while it clears off at night. It would be nice if that was reversed!
The mosquitoes have finally come in droves. This week I spent as much time outside as I could trying to get things done because it was surprisingly nice, especially in the mornings. Maybe it was just too cool for the mosquitoes to be too bad. We had a couple of nasty evenings last week when we had to put the dogs in to get them out of the bugs, but then it got really good.
That changed. Today we got up to 20C or 68F after it clouded over and the bugs just loved it! The mosquitoes and black flies all decided to come out and party at once. We had company stop by for a few minutes and we were all doing the Chilcotin wave. I was doing that as well on the lawnmower over at the neighbours today, trying to drive it and wave the black flies away with both hands. I finally gave up and went to do things that didn't necessarily include bugs. Andy held out a little longer but he finally got driven in by them this afternoon. We always seem to get that two week period where they're really bad even in midday. Hopefully we'll see some hot weather and that will drive them back into the grass, until evening comes anyway.
The water in Nimpo Lake has gone down really fast. Even now it's still dropping at a rate of over an inch a day. We're probably only a foot above our regular to high water level, so that's a relief. I would love to see things get back to normal. Our neighbour's driveway dried out yesterday and we can reach all our docks via dry land now. There's still a lot of water lying around the country with ponds and meadows still full to the brim and loaded with ducks, but at least there are no more road closures, or highway blowouts. Not for us, anyway. Water has been crossing the road east of Tatla Lake on Highway 20 for a couple of weeks and now it's down to one-lane traffic so I've posted what highway information
I have below.
Check out the bear pic that Logan sent me from the Hill the other day. It's up on the right and on
Picture of the Day.

Road Information. See below.
Water Pooling
Highway 20 Both directions - Water Pooling 45 km east of Tatla Lake. The road is reduced to single lane alternating traffic. Updated Thu Jun 16 at 4:35 pm.

Bridge Maintenance
Highway 20 Westbound - Bridge Maintenance 30 km west of Anahim Lake 8:00 am to 5:30 pm daily through Jun 17. The road is reduced to single lane alternating traffic with up to 30 minutes delay. Updated on Mon Jun 13 at 7:49 am.
This is the start of a new week/month so you'll find last month's blog at June Week One..

12/06/2011 7:35 PM

Death on the Bella Coola Hill

There appears to be a tragedy that occurred on the Bella Coola Hill either last fall or deep winter of this year. I knew a few days ago but I didn't want to pass anything along as I wasn't sure if the information was to be let out. However, I found out today that everyone in the area is talking about it with rumours flying thick and fast so keeping it quiet seems pointless. Who knows how much is true or just conjecture, or just made up to make the story better. What we do know is that someone was killed on the Bella Coola Hill sometime this past year but no one knew it until now.
As you've noted at the bottom of the past couple of blogs, there have been road closures on the Hill because of work being done on the narrow part of the road. While the openings were only very early in the morning and at supper time, the flag girls have had to be there the entire day to prevent traffic from going through when it wasn't supposed to.
One of the flag girls noticed that a grizzly bear crossed the road near her and went down over the steep embankment at about the same place and the same time every day. She happened to mention it to some of the guys working the Hill during a break and they decided to investigate. (The last thing you want is to have your flag person located near a grizzly kill!) They walked the edge of the road looking over the steep drop off about where the bear would cross every day, until someone noticed a portion of a vehicle way down below. Looking from that distance, they could just see that it was a fairly new pickup so they notified police.
I'm not sure how police got in there although I've heard by helicopter, but they discovered a man dead in the pickup, that there were Alberta plates on the truck, and that they judged the man had been there through this past winter. Now from there, the facts go sideways.
I heard from a couple of ladies today that his hips were broken and he had shot himself. Conjecture is that upon discovering he couldn't get out of the pickup, either because he knew he would never be found in time or because of pain, he chose to take his own life. I can tell you now, I have no idea if this is true. I'm sure the truth of the story will come out eventually, but the police tend to keep things pretty close to the vest until family members have been notified and forensics have been done.
So.... what happened?
Well, some of it we can figure out for ourselves even with little information. If it occurred last fall, it makes sense that the man had a firearm with him if he was on a hunting trip. If it happened in winter, then not quite as likely, but not that rare either. Or perhaps there was no firearm involved at all, and there was none in the vehicle. However, this is funny country. While the good storytellers tend to exaggeration, there's usually a grain of truth in what you hear, even if just a tiny grain, so you would think there would be some basis for a firearm in the vehicle, but not necessarily that the man shot himself. In the first place, unless it was patently obvious, even seeing a gunshot wound under the circumstances seems highly unlikely. This is mid June. If the truck had been found at the top of Heckman where the snow has only just gone, then I think the person and his wounds would be very identifiable, but that truck went down into a much lower elevation than here, and it's been plenty warm enough for considerable decay here much less down there, so I can't imagine that there was much left of this person, particularly if a grizzly made it into the truck, and I don't know of any regular vehicle that can stop a grizzly unless the truck was simply crushed too much. So the state of body or vehicle is all a guess.
We can only wonder at how he ended up over the bank. Was it during that terrible rainfall last fall that caused all the flooding? The Hill would have been deadly before it washed out in several places, stopping all traffic for weeks. Was the pickup washed over the edge by a mudslide or avalanche? Or did the man go through in winter and simply slide over the edge when it was icy or during a snowstorm? Without knowing from his family or friends when he left home, there's no way of knowing when it happened and if it was snowing at the time, no one would have noticed tracks going over the edge. I know it's something everyone keeps an eye on, including the road maintenance guys.
I think that it will be a good thing for his family to know that he's been found. It must be very hard on everyone for a family member to disappear, but you never actually know what happened to them.
The same thing happened to that couple that got lost near Elko, Nevada this past winter. She survived for 49 days in the van in winter eating trail mix and snow. Three days after they got stuck, he left in the wrong direction to get help and has never been seen since. While Andy and a few other people think the circumstances are suspicious, I don't think they are. I think two reasonably smart people made some very bad decisions, not least of which was for him to walk in a new direction rather than back track. Even if it had taken him days to follow the track back, if he didn't freeze to death, he would have reached civilization, but now? His bones will be scattered to the winds.
I suppose the same thing would have happened to this fellow on the Hill. Had there not been rock drillers and other contractors working on building the road wider at the time, something that is not commonly done, and a very observant flag person, then it's doubtful anyone would ever have known that truck was down there. It also makes me think that green is the last color I would ever have if I buy a new vehicle. Not that it might have helped much but aircraft do fly over the Valley floor and it's always possible that one might have picked up on a brightly colored vehicle. But would they know to report it?
(Information from another source has indicated the vehicle was a four year old silver Toyoto pickup with canopy and Alberta plates with Veteran tags. I can't verify this information either.)
In any case, the Bella Coola Hill seems to have lost its perfect driving record in the last ten years or so that it held for the fifty years prior to that, but then we've been getting much stranger weather conditions which may contribute to that. Photos up on the right show some of the conditions that can be present on the Hill but the kicker is probably the photo on
Picture of the Day. Fog. My least favorite. The only good thing is that you can't see to the bottom so easily.
Our water has gone down as quickly as it came up, by inches every day. It has gone down at least a foot in depth if not more in this past week and we can walk to one dock, anyway, without waders on. The neighbour's driveway is drying up fast although I saw one determined duck today still standing in the water on the road. I'm inclined to believe that he and his mate have a nest nearby and they don't want to leave it. I figured we might lose a lot of goslings, ducklings and other babies because of the problems with the water this year, and if the large egg Andy found yesterday is any example, that has been the case.
We've had a pair of loons cruising back and forth in front of our place all spring and I wasn't seeing any sign that they were going to nest, but Andy figured it was because they were confused about the high water. It looks like they may finally have made a choice, though. I noticed just one cruising around all day instead of the pair, so perhaps one is finally sitting.
Marie had her dance recital last night and apparently, it was quite spectacular as usual. I was stuck in a tourism AGM all day and didn't go past the community hall on my way home until the time it was to be over, so there was no point in stopping in. But the parking lot was full which means the hall will have been jam packed with community members and parents out to see the impressive performance always put on by Marie's pupils.
Our weather has been kind of funny for the past few days. We'll get sun but we're getting a lot of cloud and a lot of humidity with it, both of which just whips my heinie and of course, the mosquitoes love it. The odd time it spits rain but it doesn't get serious about it, which is a good thing. But typical of this country, it won't take long for it to dry out. If we get the hot summer predicted for the rest of Canada, then we'll go from flood to forest fires. For myself, I kind of doubt the hot summer will arrive. I would love to have one, don't get me wrong! But so far the weather forecasters have been batting zero for zero and we've had two good hot ones in a row, so it would seem we're due for a cooler, wetter summer. But I will take the alternative with open arms should it come our way, trust me.
Just to let you know, the road closure schedule for the Bella Coola Hill has changed. See below.

Maintenance 77 km east of Bella Coola to 36 km west of Anahim Lake (32.9 km), through Sun Jun 12 at 11:59 pm. The road is reduced to single lane alternating traffic. Updated on Sun Jun 12 at 9:43 am.
This is the start of a new week/month so you'll find last month's blog at June Week One..

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!
Reddish brown black bear peering at the camera.
Muddy road below where accident occured.
Road switchbacks.
Snowy curves on the Bella Coola Hill.
Muddy road in the fall.
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