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Wilderness Adventures - Mar., Week One/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.

19/03/2011 7:15 PM

The Bella Coola Floods

I ran out of time when I posted a blog two days ago and I didn't want a huge long post for everyone to wade through so I'm doing a separate post here about the Valley.
We drove down to Bella Coola this past Monday and although Andy has seen the aftermath of the flooding, I hadn't prior to this. Wow.... some serious landscape change happening there! It used to be that in most places you could not see the Atnarko River until quite some ways from the bottom of the Hill and just around the Fisheries Pond. Now there is a very large open area that you can see coming down the Hill where Young Creek took out a lot of trees just before meeting up with the Atnarko. All along Highway 20 going toward the Fisheries Pond, there are lots of places you can see the Atnarko River now because it also wiped out trees in many places quite close to the road. There are great gravel banks now with huge piles of monstrous logs rolled up by the flood. Bear viewing from the highway will certainly be improved now whenever there's a salmon run. Actually, I think Highways should put in pullouts in a couple of areas where you can see the river so well, just for that opportunity to see grizzlies fishing the river. It would be wonderful for the tourists. There is a bear viewing station that opened up last fall on the Atnarko River but it looks like flooding wiped a good bit of it out and it was such a dark spot, whereas these open areas along the highway are quite bright and, well.... open.
We lost count of the places where there was new pavement, where the highway and the bridges or their abutments had been washed out. The number of spots like that were incredible and the paving machinery is still parked down in the Valley so that paving can be continued in the spring.
People have been working on the streams and rivers since the flood last September and we saw equipment and men still working on several areas placing rip rap along the banks to keep the water from changing direction and flooding out the roads again. We also saw guys trying to get some of the huge cedar and fir logs on the gravel bed in the Atnarko River limbed and cut up for salvage while they piled slash on a monstrous pile on gravel in the middle. Presumably they will be burning it. Clean up of the rivers and streams is a momentous job alone, much less with everything else that needed to be done.
The town sites of Hagensborg and Bella Coola looked surprisingly good considering a good part of Hagensborg was under water. One fellow's large shed was some distance down the highway and in the ditch where it was deposited after the flood. I noticed a nice greenhouse parked up against a tree along the highway and some flotsam here and there and a fair bit of gravel on one farmer's field, but otherwise, the folks down there have done a wonderful job of cleaning up.
While such calamity is awful, if it had to come it couldn't have come at a better time. Both the flood east of here that closed the highway for nearly two weeks, and the massive flooding from the Hill to the marina in Bella Coola, created much needed jobs. Men and equipment from Williams Lake to Bella Coola have been utilized for months and while a great deal of equipment and drivers came from the outside, at least a lot of locals still got work as well. Even the small number of owner operators from Nimpo Lake and Anahim Lake that had equipment were able to work from weeks to months since last September and some are still working in the Valley. Not only does it help their bottom line but the offshoot from that is tremendous. Food, accommodations and fuel providers from Tatla Lake to Bella Coola all benefited from the floods and it certainly helped out a lot of businesses struggling with the economic recession.
We had appointments in Bella Coola but because we got there a little early we took a cruise down to the marina. You should have seen all the frozen waterfalls! Anything from little trickles and rivulets to full scale waterfalls were frozen in time and only just beginning to melt when we went down. I've never seen so much of that before and can only assume that all the rain that caused the floods last fall saturated the ground to such an extent that there was still water flowing come freeze up. The moss covered bank and wall of rock along the highway on the way to the marina was home to a multitude of these neat frozen falls and there was no way of getting a picture of all of them.... but I tried!
On the way back I could see a huge waterfall only a hundred feet or so off the highway hidden back in the trees that was also frozen, but even more amazing were these frozen steps from the foot of the waterfall right out to the highway. It was cool looking but unfortunately, the steps just didn't show up that well in the pictures. It's always that way, isn't it? Real life just never looks as amazing in photos. Or not when I take them, anyway.
The other thing that made this trip down different from others was the low tide. This is the first time we've gone to the marina and seen the tide on the inlet that low on the pilings of the docks. You could even see the bottom! It was weird. The Nimpkish Ferry was in but there was no one around and the gate was chained across. I wonder if the ferry has to wait for the tide to come up before going out? Surely tide that low must effect the ability of some boats to manoeuvre. If we could see the silt on the bottom of the inlet then I should think it would be too shallow for those large fishing boats to move, but what do I know?
In any case, for those of you folks that have visited Bella Coola before and plan to again this summer, you'll find some of the scenery quite different now!
Tomorrow is spring and it seems we're going back into winter. The odd snow flake started coming down midway through my walk in the back woods today and by the time I got home it was sifting down fine flakes at a pretty good rate. No huge snow fall of course and the snow melted all afternoon as it fell, but it stopped melting an hour or two ago and is now definitely sticking. That's actually a good thing. It's been really slippery around here so if an inch or two of snow falls and sticks to the ice, walking just might be a little safer. Andy just jokes that all the snow does is hide the ice so you don't see it before going for a header, and he's probably right. Of course he also accused me of being the reason why we're getting snowed on, because of what I said in the last blog. He could be right about that too. It's only fair that I shoulder the blame when so many other locals have willingly taken the blame for snowfalls this winter, brought on because they washed their vehicle or shovelled their driveway or were smug about finally getting their skating rink into perfect condition.... all deeds guaranteed to bring on a good dump of snow. But the redeeming factor is that you know it can only last for two more months at most and I can live with that. Although I'm sure I'll start getting more irritable about it when on trips to Williams Lake or Bella Coola, (Or Kelowna heaven forbid!) I start seeing green grass and flowers while we're still under the mud and the blood and the tears of Break Up.
Just a word of warning to those of you with slow hookups. The Picture of the Day is a fairly large file of the Atnarko at 202kb.
17/03/2011 7:05 PM

The Long Run

I know it's been a long run between blogs, folks and I thank you for your patience. That doesn't mean it's going to get any better in the short term. I still have this tourism publication that has me glued to the computer chair for far too many hours a day, but I have a lull right now while I wait for more material to come in and rather than spend it doing my taxes...... writing a blog just seemed a lot more fun.
It's been two weeks since the last blog and lots has been happening with the weather. We had the usual up and down in temperatures with some nights getting pretty darned cold, and some days actually getting above freezing. Thankfully those sneaky snows finally quit. (Mother Nature didn't hear me say that did she? Knock on wood for me.) You know how they say the Inuit people have multiple words for snow, each describing a certain kind of snow? Well I wonder if they have a word for sneaky snow. There used to be guarantees of sorts in this part of the country. Well not guarantees but most of the time our weather was pretty consistent season to season with little surprises thrown in here and there just to make things interesting. But all those consistencies seem to have gone out the window in the past handful of years and now we have a new one.
I think I've mentioned many times before that if it clouds over in winter it usually means you're going to get snow. If it's cold, you'll have clear skies and it's doubtful you'll see snow. Not so of late!
We've gotten two to three good dumps of snow this winter, but that's about it. But we've also gotten little snows here and there ever since the the first week of January even while temperatures have been quite cold. A skiff here, half inch there, here three inches, another skiff and so on, with it regularly snowing at least three times a week and often more. And that little bit here and there just kind of sneaks up on you. One day the driveway is clear and three days later Andy has to get back on the Bobcat and clear it again, and yet we didn't actually get any single measurable snow. We got sneaky snow and it really built up this year.
Last year a friend down the lake kept strict records on how much snow we got with a final count of five feet and three inches. This year I don't know how you would measure all the little skiffs but we both agreed that we have more snow on the ground this year than last, which means all those sneaky snows added up to an excess of five feet. That's why I want to know if the Eskimos have a word for it because sneaky snow is definitely a force to be reckoned with. :-)
Fortunately for all of us that were starting to go a little stir crazy (or coming down with cabin fever if you prefer) over what has turned into a lengthy winter, the sun is finally kicking butt on sneaky snow. Now if we get a skiff of snow as we did just two mornings ago, it's gone by noon. (I just know I'm going to be sorry that I'm talking like this. There is no question in my mind that I'm inviting a spring snowfall of epic proportions but I'm hoping Mother Nature is too busy protecting her shamrocks right now.)
Our snow is actually settling quite a bit because we've been several degrees above freezing during the day for a week or so and have even had the odd night where the mercury barely dipped below freezing. Although it took a bit of an unexpected dive last night, dropping to -13C or 8F and stayed that way until after nine this morning, but that sun just has so much power right now and all it takes is a reasonably clear day and we're up to 6C.
This thawing during the day and freezing at night has crusted over the snow probably making it dangerous for big game and easy for the predators to chase them, but only at night. Fortunately during the day the crust won't hold the weight of our dogs, so it won't hold wolves up either. At least this freeze thaw cycle has packed the back trails hard now and it's been great walking in the past week. I'm not falling through the crust every step or wading through snow after every snowfall.
We've seen lots of tracks on the trail in the past couple of weeks. We saw that wolf track again and there's been the usual fox and coyote tracks, loads of rabbit tracks and the odd moose passing through. There are two trumpeter swans down where the Dean River exits Nimpo Lake on the little bit of open water there but there are no other birds. This time last year we had all kinds of spring and summer birds here but we're still at grosbeaks, chickadees and Whiskey Jacks this year and there are no water birds anywhere. Even going to Williams Lake last Friday we didn't see any on the rivers along Highway 20, I guess because they were still frozen over, but I did see a couple of Canada geese in Willy's Puddle.
There's definitely been more winter from Tatla Lake to Williams Lake this year than there was last year. No difference for us of course since we've had two long winters in a row so we've gotten used to it, but it is nice to hear everyone else whine this year that didn't see Old Man Winter at all last year.
We finally got our daylight savings on Sunday and the sun doesn't go down until after 7:00 PM now which means I've been able to tease poor Andy unmercifully because he's lost his early morning sun, of course. But you don't need to feel sorry for him because trust me, it's pay back time in the fall when the clocks go forward again. It's so nice to have more light cooking supper now and to be able to go for walk a little later in the day.
It's definitely breaking up now and our road is a mess. Since we don't have the use of the ice road this year we actually have to deal with mud on the road. The frost hasn't come out of the ground yet but that mud on top is almighty greasy. I was going around most of the corners on our road sideways Tuesday when I came back from Anahim. But at least we're starting to see a little gravel in our driveway and some of the ice is breaking up a bit which is nice because it's pretty slippery walking out there in places.
I'm sure everyone has been watching what's happening in Japan in the past week as have we. Boy, that's just mind numbing with the way they were hit with earthquake, tsunami, nuclear plant meltdowns, and yet more aftershocks. No country deserves that and my heart goes out to the people there. There is certainly a marked difference in what you see on the television between the Japanese people and say those in Haiti after the earthquake or New Orleans after Katrina. No looting, no rapes, no screaming at the cameramen demanding to know where the aid is. After receiving millions and millions of dollars in aid from all over the world, Haiti has accomplished little with it. In contrast, the Japanese wait courteously and quietly in long lines for water, keep close watch over elders with no medicine, or have picked themselves up and have started cleaning up their homes so that they can get on with helping the neighbours clean up theirs. That is one amazing people and my admiration for them only increases as each day passes.
Happy Saint Paddy's Day for those of you that like to celebrate it.
You'll find last week's blog at February Week Four..

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!
An excavator on the river bed.
Equipment in the river after the flood.
Great trees pushed up along a river.
Frozen water coming out of a moss bank.
Pair of Trumpeter Swans on the river.
Two riders doing a turn.
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