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Wilderness Adventures - March, Week 1/2008

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' - 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.

15/03/2008 7:42 PM

The Ides of March

Happy Ides of March, everyone! Just a quick note for a weather update. It wasn't much to write home about today. Mixed sun and cloud, with some hail and a few flurries that amounted to nothing. It went to -12C or about 10F last night and the lake moaned and muttered and boomed all night. It didn't get much above freezing today and there was a cool breeze, but it wasn't too bad in the sun if you were dressed warmly.
I made my walk a fast one today because it was chilly, and didn't see any fresh moose sign for the first time in days. I'm pretty sure I've been playing accidental hide and seek with a moose all week. I'll walk up the road and see super fresh tracks crossing and both dogs immediately have their heads buried in the tracks. Then I'll come back on the trail and fresh tracks with muddy twigs still sliding back in will have crossed the trail, turned around and then back again. It's almost like the silly thing sees or hears me coming, dives into the woods, and then comes back out as soon as I pass by. It's happened three or four times this week and I know River has spent a good deal of time with his nose in the air all week so something has been close by.
No sign today and that could very well have been because it's chilled down again and hardened things up. The moose may move elsewhere until it warms up again. I've hesitated to mention it here though until I was sure the animal had moved out or wasn't around because a couple of illegal kills have already occurred behind the Reserve this winter. So if I report animals being around now it'll probably be a few days after.
Andy spent a part of today getting scratchers on his machine so most of them are good to go now. Everyone will probably be sledding for the next couple of days so I'll start a new week when I have some pictures. I'm hoping for some decent weather but another system is moving in, so who knows.
Have a good weekend, folks!

14/03/2008 8:43 PM

Slash Fire Lunch

Our bonfire was just about out on the surface this morning but it was easy enough to kick up some coals for a wiener roast. It's amazing how well all of those stumps burned. Actually, fire is amazing in any form, but a slash burn is the coolest of all. After all, it's just an over sized campfire. Well, maybe really, really over sized. There was a lot of dirt (clay in this country) packed into the roots mixed in with snow under that pile but after a really hot fire? The clay had the color and consistency of crumbling pottery. It makes you wonder if that's how our ancestors discovered pottery making. Somewhere, somehow, thousands and thousands of years ago, the ingredients in a fire were consistent with what creates pottery. Well, it was a happy accident, wherever it first happened. I mean, what would we all do without those interesting glazed objects created by our beloved family members caught up in the pottery making craze back in the late 70's and early 80's? Remember the gnomes? I still have a slinky black panther that I've been packing around for years, and a really ugly green frog that holds my scrub pads next to the kitchen sink.
The other really amazing quality of fire is its ability to rest and hide. About all you can see after a big fire like what we torched off yesterday is a large ring of white ash and red clay with a few forlorn blackened stumps sticking up. (They had still been rooted into the ground on that spot with slash piled on top of them.) Until you dig in deep and turn the ash over with a pitchfork. Underneath are twigs and needles that didn't burn, only baked, because the ash cut off the oxygen. Once you turn that stuff over and let the air at it, it crackles and snaps, and then suddenly bursts into a sheet of flame. Sometimes, given the right conditions and duff, that fire can run underground and a couple of months or years later, the fire can flare up again. It won't happen on our burn spot but it used to happen to us up home all the time when I was a kid. You would burn huge windrows created by clearing land and the CAT would push too much dirt up into the pile so it wouldn't all burn right away. As a result, you might look out mid-December and see a tendril of smoke creeping through a three foot layer of snow. That wasn't bad. It was when you saw that smoke in the middle of a hot July. Worse if a Forestry bird dog spotted it before you did. That's why I know that Forestry people don't have a very good sense of humour. My father was never, ever able to convince them that the windrow had been lit on fire the autumn before after first snow fall, or two years before, for that matter.
Anyway, to make a long story short, we still raked up enough fire today for a hot dog lunch and everything has been pretty much turned over and burned up except for a few sticks still frozen in around the edges of the burn pile. The neighbour still has a couple of more trees to take down and clear up so the slash will start building again anyway before you know it.
Today was a mixed bag with some sun and cloud and it looked like it was snowing over the mountains. The wind switched around and started coming in from the east at one point today and that should have brought us some snow for sure, but Andy only counted eight flakes. A great disappointment to Richard who succumbed to the inevitable and helped Andy mount scratchers on his and Leah's machines.
If you're not a sledder, scratchers are two long slender spring metal pieces with a coil on one end and a bend in them. You drill and mount one on each side of the snowmobile just above the track. When you don't need them they lift up out of the way but when you do, you leave the ends dropped into the snow and like a spring harrow, the tip plows up a line of ice or snow that lubricates your sliders (track) and cools the machine. They're a necessity in conditions that you see in the spring where the snow melts on top during the day, and then freezes cement hard overnight. Until the sun melts it again in the early afternoon, there is no way your track can pick up enough snow for lubrication and cooling without the help of scratchers. The secret of scratchers is remembering when you have them down, because if you back up when they are, you'll rip them off or bend the steel the wrong way and it can't be bent back. It's an expensive little lesson.
I would love to give some accurate temperatures, but unfortunately, I can't. Not day time ones anyway because the sun shines on our old thermometer outside and my weather station is kaput for the moment. A power outage the time before last (the last one took out my computer keyboard) screwed up the ability to change from setting to setting on my weather station. We knew that if we shut off the power to it and did a reset, there was a possibility that it wouldn't fix itself, and then we would have nothing. Today, we finally bit the bullet and did just that and it didn't fix itself so now, as per the seller's instructions, it's resting without power of any sort for 48 hours and then we try the reset again. If that doesn't work, the tool box will be coming out and believe me, Andy doesn't mess around. Although he does have a more delicate touch than I. It's my personal belief that the only three necessary tools in a tool box are a hammer, a chisel, and a screwdriver. If you can't fix it with the latter, the first will fix it for good!
In the meanwhile, I had no idea how accustomed to the weather station I had gotten, nor how much I depended on its data being there every time I passed through the kitchen. I would hate to have to replace it because it and all the sensors were a pretty seriously expensive Christmas present from Andy. There's nothing wrong with all the solar powered sensors, but unfortunately, the rotten manufacturers have changed the new base units and it doesn't look like there's anything compatible with all of our sensors. I guess that's how they get you to buy the whole package over again.
At least our landscape has changed markedly along the power lines. Wherever it was Crown Land, BC Hydro hired one of our local logging contractors to clear the beetle killed trees away from the power line all along Highway 20 and a good portion of our own road. While along Reserve and private land there are still danger trees, it's still substantially reduced the number of trees that could blow over onto the power line. Surprisingly, considering the size of the machine, the processor operator that was cutting the trees did a terrific job of clearing out or beating down the stuff they didn't take for logs. It won't look great when some of the small green stuff laying on the ground turns red, but within a year or two, grass and small brush will grow up and cover most of that and it won't look bad at all. In the meanwhile, in places along our road and the highway, there is enough of a set back now that the sun can actually get to the surface of the road in winter and help melt ice and snow off of it, especially on a couple of really shady corners that could be dangerously icy at times and took forever to melt out in spring. Now if BC Hydro could just keep its promise and come back with the hand fellers to clear the trees along the line on private land. Like most, I'll believe it when I see it...
Oh yeah. I should explain the new picture up on the top right. When the guys went snowmobiling a couple of weeks ago, they spotted this massive spruce that is so thick, they figure it must have gotten a disease that would cause it to grow that way. They said there were actually four or five trees like that in varying sizes, all in that one area. It would make a magnificent Christmas tree but it's way too big now. I can only hope my Mom doesn't read this particular blog or see the picture or we'll be struggling to bring it in for Christmas next year.

13/03/2008 7:34 PM

The Geese

We torched off our huge slash pile early this afternoon. It's good that it's so early in the spring and there's still lots of snow on the ground or the Forestry bird dogs would have been circling us for sure today. And trust me, Forestry people just have no sense of humour when it comes to fire.
Because the massive pile wasn't just made up of tree branches and pine needles, but quite a number of stumps pulled out after we cut down all of last year's red trees, it turned into quite an inferno and will still be burning tomorrow. The stumps caused the fire to stay much bigger and hotter for a lot longer than normal so it was hours before Andy could get close to it with the Bobcat to push the edges in. There were only a few stumps left in charcoal form this evening when we decided to roast our hot dogs for supper, but it was still too hot to stay close for long. One burn pile down. We still have two other neighbours who are not here right now but who's slash piles need to be burned before all the snow is gone. But we can't do that until a little more snow melts from around them.
We were standing around the fire tonight when lo and behold, I could hear geese. A formation of twelve to fourteen Canadas flew over us quartering from north to south, which absolutely blew me away. I'm almost certain I have never seen them this early and I sure don't know where they're going to find open water. I had to go back to a 2006 blog to find an early mention of geese, and that was on March 17. It seems highly unlikely that the geese found open water anywhere to the north of us but to the south the McClinchy River will be open. I know that last year when we went to town one day in April, the rivers and streams running all along Highway 20 were just full of Trumpeter Swans, Canada geese and ducks, because the lakes were so late opening up last year.
It's amazing to see how fast our snow goes down every day and how much more bare ground is exposed in a little sunlight. Spring always amazes me because things do change so quickly.
I beetled across the lake today on the fourwheeler and although still quite safe for a snowmobile or ATV as I mentioned yesterday, I would certainly hesitate with a vehicle. On our little stretch of ice road anyway. I feel badly for our friend that runs the store up in Nimpo because every time I mention snowmobiling he gets a very long face. Richard and Leah had a ball snowmobiling this year and I don't think they're quite ready for winter to end yet.
We're already seeing the reeds show up in front of the neighbour's place and the ice is getting that 'black' look over there which is not a good sign. However, another neighbour that has a resort is in cutting ice this week and he says it's excellent compared to the quality of punky ice he put up last year. Yet another resort owner will be probably be in next week to put his ice up for the summer and for sure he'll have good ice over in front of his place since the Short Arm froze up early and hard before the first snow.
Just reading over past blogs this time of year to get a first mention of geese, and I'm reminded of last spring's ruthless drive to get our red trees down. It's a real relief to have that job done and not have to face it this spring. We do have some more pine that have been hit by beetles but we'll have to wait and see if they're going to turn color. At this point in time, they look like they may have fought the beetles off. All but one of our little neighbourhood at the end of our road have most of their beetle killed trees down or are in the process. Unfortunately, the one neighbour that doesn't has a huge lot and hundreds of red trees, all of it big timber. He came up for a few weeks last summer and got a bit of a start on his trees but no where near enough, so right now his place is our biggest threat for forest fire.
It's actually pretty noticeable when you're out on the lake and looking back on our neighbourhood. It looks pretty good with not much in the way of red trees except for that one block, and looks a damn sight better than most shoreline around the lake. A lot of the people around Nimpo Lake have been working their butts off for the last couple of years trying to get their places cleaned up but there's not much you can do about the red trees on Crown (Government) Land.
I'll be glad when all of the needles have dropped off these trees. Grey or black forest may be ugly but it won't be nearly as explosive if a forest fire gets started.
Today it got to about 4C and it only went to -7C or 19F last night, but we had a really cool breeze today that kept things pretty chilly. I'm not sure what the predicted weather trend is for us, not that the weather man is ever right, but there was some high haze and some messy stuff over the mountains today.
We're certainly not getting hit by the angry weather that the east is. Another blizzard on the East coast with sea ice being pushed up on shore and roofs collapsing under the weight of the snow in Ontario and Quebec. Poor sods. Their biggest worry is going to be flooding this spring unless they have a very long, cool spring with a slow melt. Hmmm. Let's see. If the normal trends hold and we always get the opposite weather from what the east gets, then if they have to worry about flooding we'll probably have a hot, dry spring and have to worry about forest fires.
There you go folks! My personal scientific long term weather prediction! Ahem....Now lets see if it turns out true.....
12/03/2008 3:34 PM

Back in the Saddle Again

Hi Everyone. I think I might have it together and can start producing a blog again. I finally finished up my latest project, pretty much hit my deadline, and now I still have lots of work to do but the pressure's off. Which means I've actually been able to go walking on the back trails again for the last few days.
The weather is still glorious and warm, although it's been a bit windy the last few days, but today was an exception. If we can get one more still day we can light the big burn pile up while there's still snow on the ground. Although the slash pile isn't as long as it was last year, it's still pretty big, very high, and loaded with all of the stumps pulled out last year. It'll burn for awhile so I'll have to pull some hot-dogs out of the freezer find some weenie sticks.
This is one long warm spell and like the Energizer Bunny, it just keeps on going. We must have a small cold front moving through because it was 8C yesterday but it dropped to -13C or 8F last night and didn't get more than a couple of degrees above freezing today. But the sun has some wicked warmth right now and even if the actual air temperature in the shade isn't that high, there's still a lot of melting going on every day.
I think the lake ice is pretty much shot in more ways than one. I don't really know how safe the ice road is now. It may be fine but we've got a hole on our section with broken ice in it that you have to thrash your way through so I've been driving around by the road rather than chance the ice. We noticed tonight that someone drove down the boat launch to the ice and then backed up again rather than chance the ice. I know it was starting to slush up a bit near shore as it usually does. The lake is still fine for fourwheeler and snowmobile traffic. I just don't know about vehicles and Andy hasn't drilled for ten days or so.
The poker run that was to be held this weekend has been canceled for now. Because there has been so much melting during the day, at night a really hard crust forms on the compressed snow and the lake ice that doesn't thaw until noon. Later in the shade. As a result, a poker run would have to be started in the afternoon and bigger machines still risk heating up if not enough snow can be thrown up. We'll gun for the Easter weekend but if we don't get fresh snow, I don't think it will be happening this year. I think we're going to have to look at moving it back into February next year.
Andy's been following the Iditerod closely this year as he does every year, and the dog sledders are having the same problems with too warm a temperatures in Alaska as well. They too had extremely cold temperatures for months just as we did and the competitors were concerned that they would be running in -40F and -50F below temperatures, and then suddenly it warmed up to well above freezing. Their dogs overheat, many won't eat, and trail conditions were very poor. They've had that problem for two years in a row and may have to consider moving their dates back if this is weather trend is going to continue.
We're starting to see some wildlife around and saw the Nimpo herd of caribou here on our back bay Saturday, but we were on our way to Wendy's memorial in Anahim and couldn't go back for a camera. There have been a few moose hanging around, including a young one that's been sleeping under the wings of the neighbour's plane. Every once in awhile our one dog will let out a bellow and I'm pretty sure it's the moose moving around. Like last year, the moose are staying in pretty close to human habitation but it's probably because the snow has crusted up so much and given the predators a major advantage.
We also had a flock of evening grosbeaks and some blackbirds move in a couple of days ago. I'll have to go back to last year's records but that seems awfully early for red winged blackbirds. Heck, at this rate, the loons will be back before the ice is even off!
At least Nimpo Lake has started booming again. The snow on the lake has melted or compressed and hardened up enough to lose the insulating value. It's when you get the temperature extremes from the sun on the surface of the ice during the day to below freezing temps at night, that she starts talking. I kind of missed that all winter.
There appears to be a lot of interest in the property for sale on the right so if you're interested, you might want to check it out. And for those of you that have checked it on Google, I realize it looks like it's quite a distance on their map from the lake, but it's actually only a few hundred yards. (300 hundred maybe? Possibly less.)

06/03/2008 11:05 AM

A New Residential Property Listing

Yikes! It's been awhile since I've written anything, hasn't it?
My heartfelt apologies, everyone, but I really have had my nose to the grindstone and am now officially overdue on a project I've been working on. However, it looks like the clients want to do a major expansion anyway if they get more funding, so I've chosen to relax on it this morning and produce a blog. Mainly because I actually got a phone call from Arizona the other day because folks wanted to know where the blog was. In fact, I've gotten several inquiries from people, including my own husband, wanting to know where the heck the blog is! Understandable, I guess. Spring is coming and everyone who visits or is a part time resident wants to know what the weather is doing.....oh yeah. Did I forget to tell you? Spring is definitely here and has been for some time. Not that we're out of the woods yet. We have the potential for full blown winter weather for at least two more months.
I think looking back in my blogs, it started warming up around the 9th. of February and it hasn't quit since. We've had more than three weeks of warm weather with temperatures well above freezing during the day, sometimes as high as 8C (about 46F), and varying from just below freezing to -17C or 0F at night.
This is the longest warm spell I have ever seen this time of year and naturally, it's taken the snow down quite a bit, especially in the past week or so. For the first couple of weeks it got warm during the day but cold enough at night that a crust formed on the snow, protecting it from melting much during the day. But now, enough bare ground has shown up that it just draws the sun and really speeds up the melt. That sun has a lot of heat in it now, too.
Last weekend, nearly everyone went out snowmobiling both Saturday and Sunday, (except me, of course) because Andy's brother was up from the Okanagan. He hadn't ridden for a lot of years and wanted to maximize his time here. It didn't take him long to get back into the saddle again and I think he really enjoyed himself. Conditions were much better than they were when I went out last and there weren't nearly as many stucks. There was a high wind Sunday so it was impossible for the crew to get to the top of Trumpeter and see the view, but they played around quite a bit. There were fourteen riding on Sunday so that's a pretty good sized group to keep track of. No one got lost and no one got hurt, so that's always a good thing, although Andy did nail a tree pretty hard. Apparently he couldn't get his sled to turn on the slippery crust coming down a swale and a big tree jumped out right in front of him. His machine came to a dead stop, he went flying over the handle bars taking his windshield with him, his helmet went flying in the process and all anyone could see was the top of this tree shaking. They're all trying to reach him because from a distance he looked like he might have seriously hurt himself the way he was flopping around. But he was just flailing his arms floundering through the snow trying to get back to his machine, because he hit the reverse button on his flying exit and it was sitting there beeping. No injury done but it did break the machine a little bit. Nothing a new part won't fix, however.
We're trying to decide if we're going to have enough snow to hold a poker run in the middle of March this year, but that's really debatable. It was predicted that we would get colder temperatures and lots of snow this week. Unfortunately, Prince George got hit with two feet and lots of other places in the interior got lots of snow, but we have only had sunshine. Not a single snowflake to be seen, to the keen disappointment of our two newest and most avid snow machine riders. Our trails are still holding up really well but unless we get a cool down, that may not last for long.
Yesterday was a very good example of what the weather has been like. I had come out of my office only to see our neighbours parked out on the Main Arm of Nimpo Lake with a snowmobile, lawn chair and fishing rod. It was an absolutely beautiful day and we couldn't resist walking out to visit and enjoy a bit of the day ourselves. It was definitely suntanning weather until a high haze moved in, which has turned into heavy overcast today.
Lately there's been talk of a group going over the Itcha and Ilgatchuz Mountains to Pan Phillips Fishing Camp on the other side and doing an overnighter at Robbie Phillips' cabins. It's something I wouldn't mind doing either this year or next, simply because I've never sledded that way and would like to see the country. About the only other way is to see it is from the back of a horse in the summer and that might be fun too, going out with one of the trailride operators on a pack trip.
Now for some bad news. Sadly, we've lost an important member of our community. Wendy Little died last Saturday morning after being flown out by medivac to Williams Lake and then Kamloops, leaving family and her husband Chuck, behind. Our hearts go out to Chuck for she will be sorely missed. My understanding is that the funeral is on Saturday at 1:00 in Anahim Lake but if that changes, I will post the change here.
Last, but not least, we have a humdinger of a property for sale that is just being posted today on the residential page and I'll put some pictures up on the right, simply because the ones on the Property for Sale page just don't do it justice. The only thing that might slow this property from going right out the door is that the owners really don't want to move before fall so it may have a long possession date. Other than that, if you want a spectacular view of Nimpo Lake and the Coast Mountain Range to the south and Kappan Mountain to the West, this hilltop beauty is the one for you. The cabin is log, three bedrooms with a good use of space, nice cabinetry, and has all glass windows in front and a glass patio door that goes out onto the front deck which overlooks the view. The property is not on waterfront, however, you have legal access to the water and the boat launch there. In fact the road that goes past the property leads straight to it and you're in a good neighbourhood, because that's Mary's end of the lake and the launch is used by her Nimpo Lake Resort customers. If you want advantages of being able to see the lake but not be right on it, there are two. You don't have to pay the higher taxes by having shore line and the mosquitoes are not nearly as bad up on the hill as they are everywhere else. In fact these folks were probably the only ones that could sit outside on their deck all last summer.
Aside from the log house, there are two fully serviced guest cabins, one on each lot. (This property actually consists of two separate legal lots of about two acres apiece so you could purchase both, keep one, and sell one, if you wanted. At this point in time, the owners are only selling the whole package.)
For the airplane enthusiast, you have your own hangar with an apron to the dirt strip next door or to the lake if your plane is on floats.
From my point of view, the pricing on this property is excellent and since the owners are cognizant of the fact that non-waterfront property does not have the inflated value that waterfront does, they've kept their price very reasonable. If you're interested at all, they've left me with copies of the lot plans and more pictures. Right now all they have for pictures are winter ones but they will be taking pictures in the summer that show off their lake and mountain view.
Alrighty then. I think I've covered most of anything that's happened in the past while. Thank you for your patience everyone. I really appreciate it since I may not be able to post again for a week or so. Unless the weather changes, or something. But generally, as long as they're getting hit with lousy weather in the east, we have nice weather here.
This is the start of a new month, and new week of course. You'll find the last blog issue at February Week 3 .


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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!
Massive, wide, spruce tree.
Hot flames on a slash burn.
Log cabin on a hill in winter.
Looking through front windows at lake and mountains.
Overlooking trees, lake and mountains in winter.
Easy chairs on either side of a stove.
A hangar sits among the trees in winter.
Kappan mountain sitting above mist and trees.
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