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Wilderness Adventures - March, Week 2/2008

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.


20/03/2008 5:53 PM

The First Day of Spring

Wow. I'll bet there were a lot of people across the country praying for the first day of spring this year.... And look at what happened. Roofs still collapsing in the east. People are trying to clear several feet of snow off of their houses as rain slowly makes it heavier. There's no room left to put snow piled up on the sides of the streets which are now one lane, and the snow banks are too high and the streets too narrow for snow blower equipment and trucks to come in. They're waiting for spring because that is all they can do. The real spring that is. The one where things actually melt. I've always thought the calendar spring is a bunch of Hooey!! I've never lived in Canada a day in my life where spring actually came now. The exception may be this year where spring has come long before normal, but snow and cold right into April is the norm. Nor is it a rarity in May.
The poor buggers on the East Coast have been hit yet again and broken records for the biggest snowfall in years, while the poor saps in the States are getting flooded out. Me thinks the gopher.... no.... the groundhog, was wrong about when spring was going to come to North America. Really wrong. That's what you get for relying on a rodent for your weather, I guess. Mind you, the climatologists didn't do a whole lot better. They were predicting a cold February and March with above average snow for us and the Pacific Northwest and we've had spring for six weeks now and haven't seen more than two snowflakes in I don't know how long!
I'm sitting here now at my desk and am delighted to see the sun shining in the window of my office as the sun prepares to set. It's after 7:00 the sun is still up and moved this far around on the horizon. I love it! I don't have to plug in my little SAD light anymore. The days are long enough and there's enough sun this time of year to perk a person right up. I was looking through my image bank for pictures for a project today and came across one of our view. A small green patch of grass surrounded by green bushes down to the shoreline of Nimpo Lake which was just as blue as could be, with purple mountains as a backdrop. That versus white, more shades of white, and the grey gleam of bare ice which is pretty much what colours our world this time of year. I think I'm ready for the green. Even Andy said he's ready for spring now because the snowmobiling is about done unless we get some snow, or we start trailering. And that's a taboo word in this country, even though we own a brand new one. But everyone gets spoiled being able to snowmobile from their front door.
The neighbour from across the lake called us up today and asked us if we wanted to join friends and neighbours for an ice fishing party on the lake this afternoon. We had things to do but went over on the fourwheeler for a little while later on. They had a nice fire, some lawn chairs, and a few fishing poles hanging over some holes in the ice. There was even a real nice rainbow trout that someone had caught. It was a tiny bit blustery and the clouds hid the sun most of the time, but when the sun did come out, it was really pleasant. Of course I guess that's why you have a fire and liquid refreshments.... for those moments when it cools down. :-) It's nice to see everyone using the lake this year compared to last when the overflow and spider holes pretty much kept everyone, including the sledders, off of it.
It didn't really get more than a couple of degrees above freezing today and it still snuck down to -10C or 14F last night with the lake singing the whole time. Actually, it was doing some rumbling while we were out on the ice today too.
Driving down the ice road is a bit of a challenge now, even on an ATV. It has melted between the snowbanks, of course, and has become a skating rink. It's so slippery that you don't dare go very fast and even then you can feel the fourwheeler drifting with every shift in your weight. Most of the surface of the lake is passible because the snow has melted down on it so much, but it's a bit rough.
I actually had some work to do so I left the ice party fire and started to walk back to our side of the lake because Andy wanted to visit a little longer and I didn't get a chance for a walk today. On my way home, quite near the big island, I found two halves of a large egg melted deep into the snow on the ice. Both shells were empty of all but the lining, the open ends facing up. I suppose it's quite possible that someone was eating a boiled egg at some point out on the ice early this winter, but it seems highly unlikely. But any other explanation is a little weird too. I suppose it's possible that a bird laid an egg on the island or the snow and something like ravens got to it. Or was it laid last spring or summer and floated in the lake until ice up when it might have floated to the surfac?. But then it should be frozen in ice, not snow. Although it did snow just as the ice was freezing last fall in that spot. Could an egg have popped up on the water and been frozen in snow? Naw...that doesn't seem likely. Maybe we'll go back to the 'person eating a boiled egg on the lake ice this winter' theory. It didn't look like a store bought or farm egg though. It was a funny buff color and large and either there were two eggs with the tops broken off, or one egg broken in half and the shell kept intact. And the lining had still been liquid before exposed to weather, which doesn't seem likely with a boiled egg. I don't know folks. It's kind of like spending ages on that silly piece of lichen last year that turned out to be dwarf mistletoe. I wasn't even in the right plant genus and that opened up a whole new world. Now I see our poor little pine trees in a whole different light and in a fight for their lives.
I guess I'll never know about the mystery egg, but it is near Easter ....? Yes, I know. I too am always amazed at how much time I can waste pondering the small details in life and I'm certain most people reading this shake their heads at times. But what the heck, it's my version of stopping and smelling the roses.
Tomorrow is Easter Friday and I imagine most people will be going away for the first long weekend of the year. So for those of you that are traveling on the nation's roads, drive carefully and if I don't have a chance to write before Sunday, Happy Easter everyone!

19/03/2008 7:44 PM

The Last Day

Today was the last day of snowmobiling for our friends' family. I opted out because of some work that came up and a joint that went out, but everyone else went. It sounds like they had a rocking good day although only one machine had one single scratcher left on it by the time they came in. I don't know what they're making the steel from nowadays but they must be overhardening it or something.
The lake has been booming for the last few days but at night is incredible, especially with the moon. I know that the moon effects the tides but I wonder if it has any effect on the lake because it sure seems to make more noise the bigger the moon gets, even though our temperatures are much the same as they have been for weeks.
For the last couple of nights I've stood outside for a few moments listening and there's just no let up in what sounds like far off mortar fire and the crunching sound of the ice cracking and settling. That actually happened to us out on the ice on Sunday. We had just come back onto the lake after our ride and stopped our machines before heading home. There was a crunch and I felt my machine shake. I just assumed that a large chunk of ice had fallen off of my track when I noticed the looks on Richard and Leah's faces and one of them said, "Did the lake just drop?!" That's when we realized that the lake had just cracked under us and the ice sheet dropped a bit. That's common close to shore because the ice rises in the middle. I wish I had taken some pictures of Goat Lake that day. It was a good example of how the ice acts when it is pressured upward. There were a few places where blue ice bulged up several feet around rocks in the lake, and then fissured from the stress.
John sent me a little story last night - some of it about this area and some pertaining more to later in his career, but since it's close to Easter, it's probably a very appropriate time to post it. Besides, I don't have much else for you and Andy didn't take the camera today, so John's piece will fill in nicely here.

DIVINE INTERVENTION OR FLUKE - YOU DECIDE Over the years a few things have occurred to me that give me pause to think and wonder.
Many years ago Lester DORSEY and D'Arcy CHRISTENSEN entered into a partnership for a time and bought a small sawmill. They had also purchased a very old David BROWNE Caterpillar tractor. I think they worked together for a winter or two. I know the old Tractor Shed at the Corkscrew Creek Ranch was constructed from rough lumber the two of them milled. No doubt Lester erected a few building also.
I think I was about 14 years of age at the time. I remember accompanying D'Arcy to Anahim Lake this one time and he was going to have to change the rollers on this old David Brown Caterpillar tractor. They were forever wearing out and resulted in them getting rid of this machine soon thereafter.
Anyways….Here we were in beautiful downtown Anahim Lake and near where Andy & Dorothy CHRISTENSEN lived in their small log house. This was about across the road from the Old Frontier Cafe. D'Arcy had jacked the back end of this cat off the ground and crawled underneath to undo some bolts on the inside of the track to this machine. I was just kind of standing around and handing him some tools when he needed them and stuff.
Now I'm looking at this small hydraulic jack that is holding up this caterpillar and I'm thinking that looks like too small a jack to hold up that much machinery and looked kind of dangerous. I go through the gate to Andy's place and borrow a block of stove length firewood about 10 inches around. There was a hitch at the back of this cat and I place the block of wood under the hitch. Now my choice of length of log was perfect to say the least. It was simply a perfect fit under the hitch. I no sooner had the log under the hitch and the jack lets go! The cat dropped maybe a quarter inch before it hit the log. Startled the hell out of D'Arcy. "What the hell!", he says. I informed him that the jack just let go but that I had put a piece of firewood under the hitch. He as much as accused me of tinkering with the jack and I had not even been close to it. No more cause for concern than that and he continues to work on the cat. When he's done and crawls out from under the cat he takes the jack out and go figure. The hydraulic jack is Kaput!
Now when I say I had just got the piece of wood under the hitch of that caterpillar, I mean just! Not a second had gone by when the jack collapsed. Now I just saved the life of my Brother-in-law and he barely acknowledges the fact. Did not even give him cause to comment. Just continued on with his business. I am willing to bet if you asked him; he would not even recall the incident. So was life in the Chilcotin.
A good number of similar incidents followed me throughout my career in the RCMP. Enough to give me reason to believe that there is a higher power that intercedes from time to time. I would like to tell you about one such incident that occurred a whole long time ago at a posting that shall remain unidentified.
About noon one spring day I was summoned to the local Hospital whereupon I was met by a Doctor who had summoned me. He informed me that he had just treated a patient who was very near death and in his opinion had given birth to a full term fetus. He advised that the patient was in "Hypovolemic Shock" (loss of blood) and "not out of the woods" so to speak. His concern was that she was uncommunicative and that out there somewhere was a baby in dire straits.
Within short order we were able to determine where this young lady resided and began to conduct an investigation into the matter. The circumstances surrounding the investigation were unique to say the least. Nowhere could we find or locate a baby.
Without going into a ton of detail with respect to the investigation; I can tell you that my search for the baby led me to a snow covered field bordering a small town in northern Alberta. Now my first call with respect to this matter came in just past noon. We were searching for the baby and conducting our investigation from this time on. We had done some tracking to no avail. I called in the Police Service Dog to assist in the search and also to no avail. Now it was getting dark and a blizzard had started to blow. We were sure we were in the right area and several policemen and a Police Service Dog could not locate this baby. By this time my investigation had led me to believe that this baby had been wrapped in a large red bathroom towel and buried in the snow in the bush very near to our search area.
We continued to search with flash lights and our hopes were growing dimmer by the minute. Howling winds and blowing snow made search conditions near impossible.
Quite suddenly, a piece of red "Christmas Wrapping Paper" blows by me and continues some 25 yards past me where it becomes snagged in some low bushes. To this day I don't know what possessed me to follow the Christmas wrapping paper. Within a meter of the "Wrapping paper" I virtually stumble upon the smallest amount of "Red Towel" showing through the snow. The purpose of our Search was over!
Now this case was very unique for a variety of reasons and one I shall never forget. It became a very controversial case and subject to a great deal of study on the part of the RCMP and the Attorney General of Alberta.
Now in my later years, I reflect on matters such as these and give pause to wonder. One or two of these types of things might just be a fluke. Some might say perseverance is what led to success. All I can say is this sort of thing occurred to me all too often. Most Career Police Officers do develop a sixth sense and can attest to similar occurrences. Maybe, just maybe we have some help from time to time!
Regards,
John D. BRECKNOCK

18/03/2008 7:18 PM

Powder

Andy and our friends and two members of their family went out to find some powder yesterday. It sounds like they found some too. They went up on the mountain and played around a bit up there and spent quite a bit of time over at the Cornice Play Hill. As you can see on the right, they were hitting the cornice where it's nearly vertical for a short bit. And the picture below shows that sometimes you just don't quite make it.
From there they all moseyed down to the Telegraph Creek trail that has a bunch of deep deactivation ditches on it. That makes it fun for doing jumps and they found lots of powder in that area to play around in.
By this morning, there were only two of the most determined left to go out snowmobiling. It sounds like they had a great time and went into country looking for powder that we normally avoid, because it can be real deep, real soft and a real jackpot. Sometimes you can get down the hill and play around in among the trees where the snow stays soft all right, but getting back up often involves a lot of stucks. Apparently they only had about eight apiece today, so they considered it a good day :-)
Tomorrow is another family day and we'll all go out then. It will just be a challenge trying to find good trails that everyone can make but that the 'extreme' riders can still find powder to play around in.
Our bird life just got a lot more interesting and it must truly be spring now. I came out out of my office at one point yesterday to see what I was almost certain were two Trumpeter Swans feeding on bugs or something on the ice. The next time I looked, there was only one and while I studied it in the binoculars I noticed it seemed to be calling every once in awhile. The bachelor, or bachelorette, (How would you know?) stayed within a small area on the ice for the whole afternoon, mostly just standing there and looking around. It was close to supper time before I noticed it was gone, probably figuring it had better get off the ice and find some water before dark set in, and the predators came knocking. I don't know if its partner ever returned, if indeed I had seen two, or if it went looking for it. They sure are huge birds. Even though white themselves, they're still pretty easy to spot on the lake ice.
I finally got my weather center back today. Fortunately for me, Andy has no fear about taking things apart, even when faced with a computer circuit board inside. It turns out that besides being a carpenter, mechanic, welder, electrician, fix it, and plumber among other things, he's also pretty good at electronics. Though not working perfectly, the parts that I want working, are. So, on that note, I can tell you that it's -4C or 25F right now and it didn't get much above +4C today. We had a bit of breeze that kept things cool on my walk but it sure sucks the moisture away as the snow melts. I can't believe how much it's going down every day. Today I actually discovered a columbine in my garden that had been uncovered by the sun that was as green as could be. The leaves will freeze tonight, of course, but it just goes to show you that we got snow before we got a hard enough frost to kill the hardy plants last fall.
Hopefully tomorrow will be a nice day. It will be the last riding day for our friends' visitors and we'll all probably go. After that, unless we get some fresh snow, I think I'll be parking my machine for the year. It's time to start thinking of spring things and getting some work done during Break up.

17/03/2008 9:37 AM

Shamrock Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone. It looks like most parades occurred yesterday but I expect there'll be a few bottoms tipped up today. St. Patrick's Day is one of those friendly happy days that everyone, no matter what their cultural background, seems to get into. Andy was telling me that Vancouver holds one of the most multi-cultural events in North America where all cultures are invited to join in the parade wearing ethnic costume and set up cultural displays. I kind of wondered when we saw tidbits of the parade on the news and something didn't look quite right. I think it might have been the Indian saris and the Chinese silk robes that tipped me off....:-)
We went snowmobiling yesterday with family of our friends which included two little tiny tikes and their mother who had only ever been on a machine once before, and their grandmother who had not been on a sled for over 20 years and then it was low horsepower and the old style. However, after having been put on one of the biggest machines and newest style yesterday, she hung right in there.
It's a good time of year for inexperienced people to ride because the snow is so hard crusted that you can go anywhere and not get stuck. Unfortunately, that hard crust also caused overheating worries all day yesterday because it never got above freezing. It was -12C or 10F when we left here yesterday and the lake ice and bit of snow on it was rock hard. Most of us had scratchers, but not all, but only one machine, an older one, actually overheated. We were fortunate to hit about an inch of fresh snow on Charlotte Main and more the higher we got, so that helped a tremendous amount.
Andy had just gotten a brand new set of scratchers on his newer machine the night before and when he pulled them out of the package, he showed the packaging to me. "When was the last time you saw that?" he said. Woo Hoo!! Made in the USA! "Not in a long, long time." I said. I was impressed to not see a made in China sticker on it. I shouldn't have been. We had only gotten about half way up Charlotte Main riding side by side when I heard a metallic 'ping' sound. I slowed to look at my scratchers and they were there, but the one on Andy's machine had broken off. The sound I heard must have been the piece hitting my machine when it flew off. We went back and found it laying in the middle of the trail. It was broken on the bend which is hard to believe. It's supposed to be made up of spring steel, the same as what you would find on an old fashioned harrow or a hay rake. We pulled harrows through compacted dirt and clay and rocks for years before we would have to replace a piece. And this thing couldn't make it 10 miles scraping on snow. $80 dollars for two little rods of metal that you bolt to your machine, and it can't do the job? Small wonder all the American manufacturing has gone to China and Mexico if they can produce a much cheaper product that works as well or better. It was disappointing to say the least and of course warranty won't work. The retailer will just claim Andy backed up with the scratchers down, which I can attest he did not. But as usual, it's a lose, lose situation for the consumer.
We weren't blessed with good weather yesterday at all. It was a little windy and kept trying to snow all day as you'll see from the pics on the right, making it a little bit tough to see, so we didn't even try to get up on Trumpeter.
We decided to go over to the Play Hill because it's normally protected from the wind, and it was quite pleasant for awhile when the sun came out. But after everyone did a bunch of playing around on the hill, (including the kids riding with their Dad and our friends) the snow really started driving sideways and it was time to leave. I always worry that it will get too cold for kids up on the mountain because they're actually not doing anything to keep warm. We wound our way back down to Goat Pass through driving snow and wind and then Andy pulled up next to the kids' Dad to see if he wanted Andy to take the little guy riding with him, so that his Dad could go play in the snow. The little boy was sound asleep on the machine with the visor on his helmet through the mountain bar keeping him propped upright. It was really cute but I have no idea how a kid could go sound to sleep bouncing over bumps on a snowmobile. He slept all the way down the mountain though to kilometer 24.
We deked off into Gus's Meadow where deep powder usually makes for great fun playing around, especially for visitors. But it too was rock hard and even the creek is open in spots there. Conditions are not nearly as bad today because it didn't get as cold last night and it's a lot warmer with some sun today. Andy and a few have gone back out without the kids this time so that they can see if they can find powder in the trees up on the mountain. You can get into a real jackpot with a lot of inexperienced riders going into the trees but it makes it a lot more fun for the better riders. Since it's not nearly so blustery and much clearer, I'm hoping the crew can get to to the top of Trumpeter too. That view is what makes the whole trip worthwhile.
I decided to stay home and work today in the hopes of going out Wednesday. But if I keep writing this article, that won't happen either!
Oh, and don't pay attention to the time this was supposed to be posted above, and when it actually will be. I just realized that the pictures that I was going to post of yesterday's trip are still on the camera, which is riding with Andy up on the mountain right now. So it will be this evening before this is up at the soonest.
As you can see, I've started a new week so you'll find last week's articles, though few, at March Week 1.

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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!
Snowmobiling on the lake away from an ice fishing party.
 
Massive cornice has snowmachine tracks going up it.
 
Two men with a stuck sled.
 
Sleeping child on a snowmobile.
 
Two sled riders taking children up a hill.
 
Snowmobile rider lifts his skis going up a steep hill.
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