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Wilderness Adventures - March, Week 2/2009

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' about the Lakesounds 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.


13/03/2009 9:17 PM

Friday The Thirteenth Round Two

There you go....another Friday the Thirteenth for the second month in a row and nothing bad happened today. So far....
I had to go to a client meeting today and my truck didn't even get stuck in his driveway, no flat tires when I went to Nimpo, and no grizzly bear ate me or the dogs on my walk today. It was a lucky day after all!
It was kind of a sullen day weather wise, though. It was only a few degrees below freezing when I got up and it warmed up quickly. I think it got to between three and four degrees above freezing and that was without the sun because we certainly didn't see any. We've had heavy, low cloud all day and the later it got in the day, the lower and blacker the clouds got. It never did do anything down here though. It's been snowing all day in the mountains so that big weather system must be running right along the mountain range and it's just missed us. Although we got lots of wind out of it all last night and today.
I noticed watching the weather at supper that the forecasters had revised their radar map some. Last night it showed us in the middle of some pretty heavy moisture while tonight it showed us just outside of it. It looks like that low pressure system slid down the coast more than it came inland.
Apparently it was absolutely horrendous down in Bella Coola today with blowing snow, rain and high winds. The Pacific Coastal sked didn't even land in Bella Coola so that meant anyone on the plane for Bella Coola had to bus down the 'Hill'. The weather must have been bad because a long time top flight pilot from down in the Valley put his plane into the Saltchuck this morning with one passenger on board. They're both okay but I guess a helicopter had to fish them out of the water where they had been hanging onto a wing. Apparently the pilot of the downed plane was madder than a wet hen. You can't blame him. He probably just got caught in a sudden downdraft and couldn't keep from tipping her into the water. I'll bet you he doesn't fly on Friday the Thirteenth ever again.
It looks like our weather is going to continue to be unsettled for the next few days. But hey! It's warm! And even if it's windy, if it's warm, I can still walk the back trails and it's infinitely better than risking frostbite with a -20 windchill on top of cold temperatures like we had earlier this week.
Have a good weekend, folks!
12/03/2009 7:15 PM

The Spot Thingie

That's Logan's term. He's our neighbour from down at the other end of the lake and a great flying and snowmobiling enthusiast. He bought himself a SPOT this winter and has finally decided to subscribe to the emergency service and check it out. For anyone that's not familiar with the SPOT, it's a satellite GPS messenger and tracking device. If you are out in the bush and are carrying one, you can hit a button on it and it will check in through email to your contacts that you specify. If you hit another button, it will say 'Help' instead of 'Check In' on it, sends the coordinates of the person with the SPOT, and a link to a Google map showing exactly where that person is so that you know where to send help, or help them yourself. The last button is for 911. If you hit that button, then the information automatically goes to an emergency service that you subscribe to which calls phone numbers that you have specified, to let you know that the person is in trouble.
The beauty of the device is that it works anywhere in the world and where cell phones won't. It also works even if you aren't working so well. For an example, you can set the device to do automatic check ins at specified intervals. If the contact person notices that a check in has been missed, then they can assume that there is a problem and using the coordinates the SPOT sends each time, they can judge whether the person is still moving or not. In the case of a guy in Alaska, he wasn't and his life was saved where otherwise, he would have died.
You can set the interval in which the SPOT sends coordinates to the satellite so that a contact person, or anyone that has been given a password and link, can follow your route on Google Maps. That would be kind of fun when you think about it.
I really like the safety aspect of it, so I was curious to see how well it worked and I finally got my chance.
Logan asked if I would be one of the email contact people because I'm always on the computer. (It's sad when everyone knows what you do with your life all day.) I'm more than happy to be because checking my emails is no big deal, especially if I know he's out somewhere. So tonight he's fired up his SPOT and he's doing some testing. Boy, it's certainly accurate! He's exactly where he should be on Google maps so I can see how it would be a very simple matter to find someone in trouble. It's just that so far there seems to be a time lag of several minutes between the time he sends a message and when I get it.
I find it really strange whenever we watch something on the news about a person rescued from a mountain, or wilderness, or plane crash because they called out on their cell phone. It just seems so out of the ordinary because you don't expect people to be able to get reception in isolated areas, but that must have been improved a great deal over the years. Although I shouldn't be surprised. We were stunned to find that nearly everywhere in Alaska that we traveled we could get cell phone service, even if we hadn't seen another person or vehicle in miles of driving. Out here we must be just about the only place left with no cell phone coverage for the entire distance from Williams Lake to the Bella Coola Valley, which is why I gave a SPOT to Andy for Christmas. But we haven't subscribed to the service yet because you have to do that in American dollars and in case anyone hasn't noticed, our Canadian dollar is definitely in the doldrums! I've been waiting for it to come up a bit but no luck so far.
Last night the temperature only went down to -10C or 14F and then not until early this morning. Once the temperature rose above freezing it ranged around 5C or slightly less all day but we sure didn't see much sun! We had really heavy grey cloud all day until late this afternoon when a wind came up and moved some of it out. Andy went snowmobiling with the guys up on the mountain today and he said visibility was really bad, especially since he was breaking trail most of the day. It's not bad when you have flat light if you have a snowmobile track to follow. It creates shadow in a shadowless landscape and at least you can tell which end is up. When you're the one making the first track it's not so good and Andy said his back is going to be paying tonight for some of the bumps that he didn't see until he'd hit them.
A couple of fellows followed the guys' tracks up the mountain today and they finally caught up with Andy and the group this afternoon. It turns out the guy and his son are snowmobiling buddies of our friends Bill and Anita from Quesnel. Small world, I tell you! I hope they enjoy their time out here. Our snow conditions aren't great right now because the snow has hardened up, but I guess the guys still found powder today, and it might just get better.
Looking at the radar on the weather tonight, it looks like we're going to get some really messy stuff tomorrow. We're definitely in the dark green so even if it skims by us it will still drop snow in the mountains. Sadly, the forecasters are calling for wind as well. I could really do without that.

11/03/2009 3:52 PM

Hallelujah!

It's warming up! And if you don't think that's not a welcome relief, you've got another thought coming! I think everyone's getting just a little tired of the cold. For me it's not the cold so much as the cold and the wind. It just makes it too tough being outside.
Today the sun was shining again all day but we had some high haze this morning and it's thickened up in spots by this afternoon, but at least the sun has warmed things up before real cloud starts to move in. That way we won't be stuck under an inversion layer where the cold air is held down by warmer air above....hopefully.
It got down to -28C or -18F last night but had climbed to -4C or 25F with very little breeze when I went for my walk shortly after lunch. By the time I came home the thermometer at the back was registering 4 degrees above freezing. I figured the digital one was in the sun which is why it was reading so high, but another on the side of the house read the same, so it must be so. It sure is nice out there, anyway, and a very welcome change. The walls of the house were cracking so loudly last night that I thought this place was going to fall down around our ears. It'll be nice if warmer weather means that will stop.
It looks like we're in for a serious warm up in the next few days and I'm glad to see it coming in sooner than expected. Unfortunately, the weather change is supposed to bring snow for the next couple of days, but I guess you can't always have your cake and eat it too. Besides, snow will make the die hard snowmobile enthusiasts ever so happy. Although I'm not so sure it will make Andy so happy. He's taken it upon himself to spend the last few days clearing the neighbour's skating rink before it snows again, and he said this afternoon that he should have gotten to it before the snow crusted up so much in the cold. That's okay. They say shoveling is good for the soul. :-)
Things are waking up in the woods again. Since that fresh snow last weekend there are numerous rabbit, grouse, and squirrel tracks dotting the snowscape. A fox has meandered all over the trail and I'm sure the coyotes as well but it's harder to tell their tracks from those left by the dogs. Still no lynx tracks this year which really surprises me, but perhaps there's just too much competition from the coyote pack down here. Although I was just talking to a lynx hunter this afternoon and he says the lack of lynx at this elevation may be because of the beetle kill. I guess rabbits feed on fallen green pine boughs, (I didn't know that.) and since so much of our woods have been devastated by the pine beetle, there's limited feed for them here. Which explains why I saw so many lynx and rabbit tracks at higher elevations where the pine beetle hasn't reached, and there's lots of young pine trees from past logging.
There's no sign of our resident moose lately either. I hope that doesn't mean it's been knocked off. The lack of tracks anywhere seems to prove the animals are in trouble in this area. Probably it's as the biologists have suggested, wolf and grizzly bear predation has really taken down the numbers as does native hunting. Soon there won't be any moose left in this country and that will be a sad day indeed compared to the days of Pan Phillips and Rich Hobson when they reported seeing herds of them over in the Blackwater. Mind you, Pan was prone to exaggeration.
Audrey King over at White Saddle Air sent me some photos today of some folks from England and New York that they took out heli-skiing near Doran Creek on the north side of the Homathko Ice field yesterday. Because the pictures don't show well when reduced too much if I put them on the right, I'll put one here. That cobalt sky is exactly what I mean when I try to describe the incredible blue we see in winter.

Heli skiers exit from a helicopter on a mountain. Just remember folks, we've got a lot of cool things to do here both in summer and winter! In summer, White Saddle can take you up heli-hiking into country that is absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful and inaccessible otherwise. Their most popular tours are in the Pantheon Range, Queen Bess, Homathko and the Niut Ranges, and they often take mountaineering parties up to Mt. Waddington. You may want to look them up if you come visiting this year. I think you'll love the adventure they have to offer.
10/03/2009 6:16 PM

Still Shivering

We're still in the deep freeze up here, just hangin' out with the tube steaks and pork chops. Actually, a lot of people in warmer climes have no idea how much we use our great Canadian deep freeze to keep things cold, or to cool things off. Unlike in the summer when I use the chest freezer, in this weather if I wanted to freeze fat on hot broth so that I could skim it off, it would only be a matter of a minute or two outside and the two would be separated. Works great..
It went down to -35C or 31 below zero Fahrenheit last night and took its own sweet time warming up again today. It made it up to -9C at one point but I think the sun was shining on the thermometer at the back by then. We had anything from a breeze to a brisk wind again today, making it extremely cold with the winchill. I stepped outside during the warmest part of the day to see if going for a walk was feasible. Just about then a heavy wind started soughing through the trees and I decided that there wasn't a chance in Hades I going for a walk in that! Brrrr! I got lots of work done on the computer as a result.
It was clear again all day today, but some high fluffy cloud moved in toward late afternoon and we thought it might be bringing warmer temperatures with it. But it had mostly moved on out again by early evening and it's completely clear again out there.
Andy found some interesting cracks on the property this morning caused by the cold. We sit out on a peninsula with water (or in this case, ice) on three sides of us. I don't know if that makes a difference or not, but Andy plowed our driveway Sunday, and when he went out this morning, cracks had developed in the ice on the driveway during the cold last night, going from one side of the road to the other and then disappearing under the snow. He figures that exposing the roadway to cold air versus the surrounding ground under snow caused some stress that caused the cracks. It's probably very similar to keeping a skating rink clear. The ice will grow and bulge in the center because it is exposed to more cold air than the ice under the snow. Eventually the stress will cause cracks in the ice. But I'm a romantic. I would rather believe that massive tons of ice on either side of our peninsula is causing the ground to bulge up, thus creating the cracks. Some imagination, huh?
Actually, really strange things can happen in the cold. Andy was talking to a guy today who lives in a house that is at least half a century and probably closer to a century old. So you would think that the logs in the walls will have done pretty much all the shrinking and expanding they will ever do over that period of time. Apparently not.... He and his wife heard a loud, explosive crack!! When they ran outside to investigate, they found that one of the huge house logs had split wide open on one side from the cold. It seems strange considering that the weather was much colder in this country 50 years ago than it is now. But cold weather in March is more unusual and the sun is way warmer so the contrast between wood heating up in the day time and cooling at night is going to be so much greater than it would be in say... December or January. Our sun now probably has the equivalent in heat to what you would see in mid-October and you can get some pretty darn warm days then. Anyway, that's my theory..... not that it's worth any more than a plugged nickel.
It looks like cold temperature records for March were set all over BC today. I think Fort Nelson or Dawson Creek recorded the coldest temperatures in the province for March at -36C, only a degree below us. Although the weather forecaster that gave that number tonight is always one degree lower than anyone else on his temperatures. According to the Weather Office online, it was 35.3, only a hair colder than we were. But since we're traditionally colder than most of the province other than the far north, that's not that unusual. March can be a nasty month here. If you're not up to your heinie in cold and snow, you're up to it mud!
The temperature isn't plummeting nearly as quickly as it was last evening so maybe the warm up that's due toward the end of the week is coming to us a little early. We should be so lucky. It actually looks like we're in for at least one more day of cool before the high starts to break down and lets a little snow come in from the northwest. I'm not sure if we're in for yet another breezy day but I guess we'll know tomorrow.
I know one thing, I am sure loving Daylight Saving Time although I've only had Sunday to take advantage of it and go out walking later in the day. It is so nice to have supper with the sun not yet down and not have to squint over your plate. When we get such brilliant sunlight shining through the windows all day in winter, when it does get dark outside, it seems pretty dim inside too, and you just can't seem to get enough lights turned on to brighten things up. It's ten to eight and there's still faint light in the west and a big old, fat, full moon rising over the horizon in the east. It just gets better and better from here on in to spring.

09/03/2009 6:20 PM

Arctic Chill

Boy, we are truly in the deep freeze and it isn't going away! It got down to -32C or -26F last night and that wouldn't necessarily be all that notable if it weren't for the wind-chill. It has been colder this winter but this time we've got just enough of a little breeze out of the north to make it feel a lot colder than it is.
It didn't warm up above -12C or 10 degrees Fahrenheit today and if you throw in that breeze I suspect with wind-chill it was at least -20C out there. I know that's about what the air felt like on my walk yesterday at -9C so I chickened out today and didn't go.
They're calling for arctic outflow winds for quite a few parts of the province with our area having high enough wind-chill values to warrant a warning. You don't have to tell me more than once! All I have to do is stick my nose out the door on the wrong side of the house. Unfortunately with tomorrow, that will be three days with a wind-chill which kind of puts a kink into enjoying our clear blue skies, sunshine and cold temperatures and definitely throws a wrench into getting some skiing in. The upside is that I guess I get more work done.
Today brought a bit of a shocker to the Lower Mainland with snow making a mess of the roads for the morning commute. I didn't see a lot of that part of the news other than a bus driver kicking his passengers off because he couldn't get up a hill, and a woman doing a 180, then sliding backwards down a sloping street in her SUV. Did anyone say 4x4? I'm sorry. I don't mean to be mean but sometimes it's a bit of a chuckle watching the bumper cars and predicaments some Lower Mainland drivers get themselves into after a snowfall. Admittedly, the higher temperatures probably make for much nastier road conditions because the snow is wet and ices up under the tires, but it's amazing what winter or studded tires can do for traction. Unfortunately, many people living down on the coast just refuse to believe that it snows down there sometimes.
I often wonder if people even watch the news or the weather. They were commenting on the news tonight that it was such a shock to Vancouverites to get the snow and the cold this morning after the spring like weather over the weekend. Maybe it's us....maybe we're the weird ones. We had spring like weather too, but we also knew this cold snap was coming. We didn't know the duration. Other than from watching the weather it looks like it may break on Thursday or a little later, and I'm guessing it's going to get a lot colder before it gets warmer, but we knew it was coming. I don't know....maybe city people have better things to do than watch the weather. Me? I like to be dressed for it.
In any case, I'm thinking some people down on the coast are not happy about what's happening in their gardens right now. I admit, I feel bad for any gardener that may lose plants to surprise cold snaps, but that's because I'm a gardener. At least here absolutely nothing but a few wild willows have even considered it to be spring, (and even they're late popping pussy willow puffs this year) but I think flowering bulbs have been out for a while on the coast already and I expect some bloom has already come out on trees and shrubs. They won't be liking the cold temperatures if it drops much more down there.
Right now the temperature is dropping pretty fast here this evening and has been since the sun went down. It's -18.5C or -1F already and the house walls are making loud cracks, probably because there's such a tremendous difference from when they are warmed on the outside by sun all day, and then exposed to plummeting temperatures in the evening. Andy said the house was cracking pretty good this morning too just after the sun came up.
When I put that one twisted bonsai up on the right yesterday I didn't realize that it was going to be almost impossible to tell what it was, so I put it on today's pic of the day. Check it out! I truly would love to know how old that thing is....it is so cool.


08/03/2009 4:05 PM

Perkin's Peak Ride

We went on our ride to Perkin's Peak today. By some miracle we didn't forget much when we packed up the trailer and we beat everyone else to the Miner Lake parking lot which made it nice for getting backed in. It's a good thing Andy was a truck driver because if it had been left up to me, that bloody big trailer would still be parked crosswise in the middle of the highway.
It actually looked like our day was going to start out quite well considering the weather forecast and the blizzard we had last night. Coming home from poker in the middle of the night, all I had to do was manage to cross the lake but with the wind whistling drifts on the ice road in front of me and the wind swirling falling snow about, it wasn't easy. I really felt for the guys that had to drive farther to get home.
In any case, it was a nice surprise to wake up to half decent weather this morning and we were floored to see that the snow quit at Cariboo Flats last night. The road was dry and bare beyond that. Everyone finally arrived at the parking lot with only one guy blowing past the turnoff and getting lost for awhile. Just before we left on snowmobiles to start up the hill we could see some weather moving in behind us. Still, it stayed clear long enough as we climbed to see some of the fantastic mountain views.
The road up is actually really good. No one had been on it so we were in good snow all of the way up and since it was sugar snow, it wasn't packing under the tracks of all the machines. We ran into a couple of trees across the road on our way up but Richard made short work of them with his trusty saw.
We didn't start having problems until we got above natural tree line and into windblown bonsai trees. That's also when we started to run over rocks on the trail because of the lack of snow this year. I guess last year there was loads of snow and that wasn't a problem, but warm weather this past month and high winds left very little covering the shale and by the time several machines had been over it, it was downright painful listening to my skis clatter over them. I cringed whenever I hit a rock that didn't move wondering how much damage I had done to the scags on the bottom of the skis.
We pulled into what we thought was a sheltered spot at the foot of a pretty steep face to have lunch. It started out nice with sun but before long we had a cold wind driving right at us and it was time to move on. A couple of the guys did some highmarking on the face but you could see the snow was icy and hear them hit rocks as they came back down. I'm sure it's great any other time of year but it definitely wasn't this year.
Unfortunately, our erstwhile leaders didn't seem to know where they were going because after we sidehilled over a hump in the face we ended up in a draw, and the start of true alpine where nothing but rocks and lichen grow. Three or four of the guys had gotten ahead of the rest of us and were wandering around higher up in the rocks and I don't think they were very sure on how to reach the top of the mountain. The weather started changing really fast and suddenly we had no sun and were in the middle of blowing snow with the cloud so low that visibility was deteriorating fast. Everywhere we looked all we could see was that we were going to be leaving a lot of plastic from our skis on rocks if we continued to climb. Aside from that, this wasn't Trumpeter. Most of us can find our way off the mountain if the weather really changes because we've been up there so much, but none of us was familiar with the Perkin's Peak area and I had no interest in staying up there with the weather turning on us so quickly. Most of us headed back down to the lunch spot and once we could see the rest coming, we headed on down the trail.
It's funny, but we didn't have to drop in elevation that much and we started to get back into some sun again so the storm must have just been hanging around the peaks. We tried going down to Miner Lake to see if there was snow to play in but there was only about four inches of sugar on the ice at most. We decided to turn off and go down the Hidden Valley trail to see if there were meadows in there, but our friend Henry had developed engine troubles so three of us rode back down to the parking lot with him while the rest checked out the other road. They said they could see the 'Thumb' (a single needle like, jagged peak) behind Kleena Kleene Ranch as they rode but they would have had to go for quite a long way to get in behind the ranch so they turned back.
Even though it seemed a short ride, we were still out for four hours and when you add nearly an hour travel time on each side, it turns into a long enough day. We got into another storm heading home as we neared Nimpo Lake and by the time we stopped to drop off one of the machines, you could hardly see what you were doing the snow was coming in so hard. The weather was definitely a mixed bag all day.
I think had it been a nice, clear day, we could have gotten to the top of Perkin's Peak, or at least near enough to get some good pictures, even if we had hiked a ways instead of scraping up our skis. But without seeing the fantastic views that I know are there from pictures I've seen, I don't know that I would bother going up there on a snow machine again. I would very much like to go up on a fourwheeler in the fall though after bug season has wound down. It would be nice to just take your time going up and see more of the country. Just the fantastically twisted bonsai trees would be well worth the trip! I expect you could get some good pics of wildlife too since there was a lot of sign in the snow today.
It looks like our cold front is moving in slowly. It's starting to clear out and the temperature is slowly dropping. Forecasters are calling for clear, cold weather for about the next three days so that might be nice. Maybe I can get a ski in. I know one thing. I'm sure glad we weren't trying to drive down to Kelowna or to the coast this weekend. They showed the highway cams on the Coke and the Connector today and what a bunch of dreck!! It was a lot worse than anything we experienced today!!
Sunday:
It cleared off last night and dropped to -25.3C or -13F this morning. When I went for my walk today it was -9C at two and only got up to -7C or 19F by the time I got back. That wouldn't be bad in the face of the brilliant sunshine today if there hadn't been an 8mph breeze. That's not much of a wind but when the temperature is cold, it feels pretty bitter, and it made for some pretty wicked walking where you were facing into the wind. Our friends came over to do some ice fishing off our point before lunch and they ran into the same thing. Even with a fire, once that breeze sprang up it wasn't particularly pleasant out on the ice. I think today was the only one that the forecasters were calling for wind chill though, so the next few days should be better. It's probably just the weather systems mixing it up as the low that brought snow is moved out by the high coming down from Alaska.
This is the start of a new week so you'll find March's first week at March 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!
A climber stands on top of a mountain.
 
Mountains rear up beyond the trees.
 
Ancient tree twisted and broken by high alpine exposure to wind and weather.
 
Sharp snow covered peak comes right down to the trail.
 
Group of snowmachines in a small protected area at the base of a mountain.
 
Ancient pine tree near Perkin's Peak.
 
Looking at mountain views as we snowmobile down the road.
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