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Wilderness Adventures - West Chilcotin Blog

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.

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25/03/2015 11:30 AM

Spring Before Spring

If we thought February was the warmest any of us have ever experienced out in the Chilcotin, our month of March wasn’t far behind.
We had a cool down in the first week of March as I mentioned in the last blog, perfect for a fellow we’ve come to know that was arriving from Texas to experience a good old fashioned Chilcotin winter. Except that the day he arrived it started to warm up and it just never quit the whole week he was here. No more booming lake because it rarely got much below freezing at night, the fresh snow we had received melted and then froze, so snowmobiling wasn’t that easy, and within a couple of days, it was way too warm for him to go snowshoeing.
We took Bob snowmobiling the day after he arrived in Nimpo with a couple of friends and neighbours up to Lillie Lake and then Mud Lake on the east side of the highway, thinking it would be a nice, short, easy ride. Except that it did freeze a little the night before after a warm melty day, making the lake ice hard as cement.
We decided to get up off the lake using a neighbour’s ramp, except that the second machine in line couldn’t even make it up the slippery path, which is kind of hilarious because these were all mountain machines designed to go up vertical slopes in deep powder, but therein lies the problem.
Our snowmobiles all have deep paddles (high rubber tread on the track) designed to help give the snowmobile traction in deep snow, but does absolutely nothing for traction on ice, never its intended use. Nor does it kick up much in the way of moisture onto the sliders or onto the tunnels, which is the radiator fins up under the seat and back end of the machine, which again would not normally be a problem in deep snow. But when your radiating system is sitting two feet above the ground and little or no moisture getting to it, your machine overheats, which is where scratchers come in. They’re spring steel pieces attached to the side of your machine that stick down into the snow and ice and are designed to break out enough ice and throw it up onto the track and radiating system to keep the snowmobile from overheating and the sliders from melting together.
We all backed down from trying to get up the slippery slope and decided to take another route from the east end of the lake as suggested by one of our neighbours. However, we had only made it part way down the icy lake when Andy’s big Polaris started to overheat. It was the only machine among us without scratchers and it didn’t take long for the lights to come on. We stopped at the shoreline, threw some snow onto the fins and then came back home to pick up the old wide track I borrowed for the winter to pull the ski trackers that is fan cooled and has a short paddle so it doesn’t overheat. I rode it and gave Andy my machine and we rejoined the group.
The new route took us out to the highway but we had to follow along it for some ways before we could cross and reach a trail up toward Lillie lake, and in just the few days since we had last been up, a lot of melting had gone on. There is no sound like hearing your track and skis grind over mud and gravel. It’s kind of like scraping your fingernails down a chalkboard. But we made it across and back onto some snow, thank heavens, and headed up a trail that would take us to the old Lillie Lake ranch. It was really, really warm that day. We made our way into an old, old homestead on Mud Lake, and I took a walk around a dilapidated log home that had a lot of time and effort put into it at one time. A big old black fly buzzed out of my way as I crossed in front of the sunny side of the building where green grass was poking at the foot of the logs. Still snow on the ground, the seventh of March and there’s a fly buzzing around and grass growing. Unbelievable.
While the situation wasn’t ideal, I think it was still a good day for our friend from Texas and I certainly enjoyed the ride, even if it was a little too warm.
One thing we have seen up there on two different rides this winter was a lot of wolf tracks, and some of them pretty big. You can see that in the photo up on the right where I have my sun glasses next to a set in the snow. It's no wonder the moose moved down early in the season this year.
A couple of days later we took Bob up to Trumpeter Mountain and even though we left much later in the morning than we usually do, we still ran into a few difficulties. Andy had put scratchers on his Polaris so it wasn’t a problem but Logan was having a heck of a time with his snowmobile overheating. Strictly a mountain machine, the tunnel is really high on it and while I followed him I noticed that most of the snow and ice his scratchers was kicking up was going out under his ‘mud’ flap instead of being thrown back up onto the track and radiator fins. The result was that he was constantly having to stop and shovel snow onto the top of his tunnel to get it cooled off until later in the day when the snow softened up and he could get off into the ditches a bit.
I normally really like spring snowmobiling because you can go anywhere, but when it’s that warm with now fresh snow at all, it’s a problem. However, it worked out great for our Texan because he could go anywhere without getting stuck…. For the most part. He did put Andy’s 600 into the trees but we were on Henry’s trail and the guys before him had gouged out the snow enough to where it caught him and pulled him in. And he certainly wasn’t the only one stuck that day so he did pretty darned well.
Surprisingly, when we went up on Trumpeter there was still a lot of snow on the mountain. Often at this time of year you’re running over shale where the wind has blown the snow off, but maybe all the freezing and thawing this winter kept the snow in place. Other than few cement like drifts we had to ride over, it wasn’t bad. The six foot cairn at the top was buried with only one rock showing, quite a contrast to when we took Lloyd’s ashes up a few years ago when way more rock was showing.
We had a laminated photo of a soldier killed in Iraq in 2009 that his parents had asked to be placed by people in a place special to them, and I don’t know of many more special places in this world than the top of Trumpeter Mountain with it’s 360 degree view of snow capped peaks, glaciers, and mountain ranges. Since I have a brother that has survived two tours of Iraq it was important to me to put the photo in a spot where one of the best views around can be enjoyed for eternity.
As the week progressed it just kind of got warmer so while he and I went walking on the back trail, it just wasn’t that great for outdoor winter recreation. It certainly wasn’t great at all for snowshoeing which I know he had really looked forward to doing, but winter comes here every year, so maybe next time…..
Toward the end of the week our friends organized a picnic on Dot Island so that Bob could see how we have fun here in the winter even if it's not much of a one. The wind was a little cold at first but we had a good fire, comfortable chairs, great food, and by evening the wind had dropped and it was down right balmy sitting there, although the liquid refreshments might have helped with that impression a bit. :-)
This has been kind of like the winter Olympics held at Whistler in 2010 where they were having to truck in snow and the one time that they really, really needed to have winter, they didn’t. This time when we really needed to have winter because we had a visitor, we didn’t. But on the selfish side, I’ve been loving it!
I feel really badly for the poor folks on the east coast that have been getting slammed with blizzards, snow, wind and cold temperatures for months, but I am so grateful it’s them and not me.
Watching the snow melt for the past two months, temperatures in the teens in February and flirting with it for most of March, and having few nights much below freezing has been marvelous. We had a lot of snow to melt from our blast earlier in the winter, or it would be gone from everywhere including the woods. But most of our yard is dry and most of the lawn is bare, so pretty soon the spring work will start.
We did get snow four days in a row this past week with another skiff on the ground this morning but our temperatures have been so warm that it hasn’t lasted the day. We got a bit of a downpour this morning, but it was pretty short and sweet.
We’ve been really fortunate that the ground was so dry going into winter this year because aside from the still melting winter snow, we have had enough little snows and rain in the past week that the ground could easily have become a slimy mess. I was a little concerned that our road was going to become the mud hole it did a few years ago when we were walking out for a month, especially when the frost is still coming out of the ground, but it’s holding up really well. I think it’s because the ground was completely saturated going into winter then and this time it wasn’t. I dug a hole down four feet late last fall to sink a big metal I beam for a gate post, and that soil was dry as a bone. So as long as the frost doesn’t prevent the moisture from soaking in, it will just continue to. Probably a good thing. We were seeing a lot of tree and shrubbery die off by last fall after a long, hot summer and no moisture left in the ground.
We were able to drive on the ice road up until about two weeks ago. There is still all kinds of ice, but the ramps up from the lake are starting to deteriorate. Once the dirt starts to run onto the ice, it degrades it fairly quickly and a vehicle, especially heavy pick ups like ours, tend to punch through coming up off the ice. However, it’s still lots safe enough to walk and ATV on. In fact that’s how we hauled all our chairs and food and what not down to Dot Island for the picnic with our neighbours while Bob was still here. And if it snows any amount at all, I’ll pull my skis back out and give the lake a shot.
All the moose seem to have moved back up into the higher ground now. I’m seeing very little fresh sign around but the snow has gone down so much and it’s been so warm that they’ve probably moved back up into the high country.

March 31.
Well I didn’t manage to get the blog finished back when I started writing it last week and since it’s the end of the month, I figured I had better get it posted.
Our weather has definitely been up and down in the past week but we’ve also had a couple of days of really high temperatures such as 15C or 59F yesterday, and it’s still not getting much below freezing at night. That means projects and other cool stuff have been getting in the way of finishing this blog. We spent a couple of days getting firewood in and doing some burning and I did some burning down in my garden where we took a big pine down next to the house this winter. Boy, that thing had more limbs on it than most four trees put together! I’ve still got a lot of garden clean up to do but it has kind of fallen behind work on our wood working shop that we’re still plugging away on.
I’ve also been slogging around in the bush for the past few days trying to map out a new ski trail and made the mistake of deciding to do it while there is still snow on the ground. I figured as I wandered around out there I could keep track of where I was going and where I had been by the tracks I left in the snow, except that the snow is right at melt point and it’s still knee deep in many places. That means me and the dog drag our butts back after pushing around in the bush for up to four miles soaking wet and pooped out. I would never have thought the snow could still be that deep but if you get back in the deep woods and away from the sun, there’s still lots of it.
I have a little more than half of the trail figured out but still have to put some pieces together, which I might do today. I’m trying to find a route around a red willow swamp and I did go around it a few days back but ended up in an aspen grove in eight inches of water under the snow so I have to see if I can get a little higher up on a ridge behind it this time.
We got snow again last night, not an unusual occurrence at all now, but the sun is shining and even though we’re getting weather dropping out of the north now, cooling our day time temperatures off considerably, it still looks like it might be a good working day out there if I can get this finished and uploaded.
Happy April Fool’s Day tomorrow!

The last blog is at February Week One.

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Anahim Lake Highway cam looking West.

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!
Four of the five of us around our winter picnic fire.
Snowmobile framed by a cabin overhang.
Sunglasses lie on the snow next to wolf prints to show the size of the tracks in comparison.
Snowmobiles lined up at the old  Lillie Lake ranch.
The guys have coffee at their machines in the bush at Mud Lake.
What's left of an old building made of large logs.
Placing the photo at the cairn on Trumpeter Mountain snowmobile ride.
Two people on top of the mountain in winter.
Button leading to The Chilcotin Facebook Page.
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