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
Wilderness Adventures - March Week 3/2014
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of the Day.
Break Up Has Stopped Dead
know, I think Im just going to stop writing positive
weather reports on this blog. Last time I wrote about
how much sun we were getting, how the wind was drying
things up and that Break Up was here. Mother Nature decided
to pull the rug out from under us and winter has come
slamming back down. It has snowed for eight out
of the past nine days. Admittedly, it has only
amounted to a few inches in total (its hard to tell
because it comes down, melts, comes down, melts) but it
has been overcast, dreary, dark and depressing. In the
last ten days I have missed walking more days than I have
for the entire winter. Theres two reasons for that.
One is that I have been kind of swamped and so decided
to take advantage of the dreary winter weather to get
things done before spring really does arrive, and going
out into wet, blowing snow hasnt appealed to me
at all. Unfortunately, the result is that my back
has become crocked up from too much time in the office
chair and not enough getting out and walking.
The downside of all the additional snow is that in places
like our driveway and out on the road where things were
drying up nicely back when we had wind and sunshine, the
newly thawed ground is absorbing more and more moisture
and we could end up with a big mucky mess if this doesnt
smarten up soon.
There is a bright spot, though.
Its hard to feel sorry for yourself when you
see whats happening to those poor souls in the rest
of Canada. From Ontario right to the east coast
they have been inundated with nothing but one blizzard
after another for the past few weeks. They just aren't
getting a let up from Old Man Winter and the prairie provinces
arent faring much better with temperatures plummeting
into the 20s. At least our temperatures arent
bitterly cold and were just getting mini blizzards
and squalls, not several feet of snow at a time accompanied
by hurricane force winds.
At least we had a great time about a week ago. You
know that one day out of nine that I mentioned above that
didnt get snow? We had a neighbourhood wiener
roast on that day and frankly we couldnt have asked
for nicer weather. It had snowed on Saturday, the day
before, and was actually pretty overcast with a little
flurry activity that Sunday morning. Andy asked me if
we should call everyone and cancel but I figured that
hey, were all from Canada, we know how to dress
warm, and were going to have a big fire, so were
going ahead with it. Besides, I was a little concerned
that all the snow would melt at the rate it was going
and if we left the burn pile until too late, we would
be past the open burning season with no snow on the ground.
Had I realized it would snow every day thereafter on top
of the 16 inches of snow or so that still hasnt
melted, I wouldnt have worried about it. There
isnt a hope in Hades that a fire will get away anywhere
around here for the next many weeks.
Andy plowed out around the fire so that no one was wading
around in two feet of snow. I set out a bunch of chairs
with thick cushions on them so our bums wouldnt
get cold, we cut a bunch of wienie sticks, threw some
food out shortly after noon and waited for the neighbours
to arrive and they did, just about the time the sun broke
through. People came and went all afternoon enjoying glorious
sunshine, pleasant temperatures and not even a breeze
to chill anyone down. It was a really enjoyable day for
visiting with everyone. In fact, the weather was
so nice that after everyone left Andy and I sat for a
little while longer around the fire until nearly supper
time just enjoying the beautiful day. Its
a good thing we did. Its the last one weve
seen! But we did luck out when we needed to so I cant
We went walking in the woods today and decided that we
had accumulated enough snow on the back trail that I needed
to run it with the snow machine. Its the first really
warm day weve had so the snow was soft and mushy.
I figured if I ran a trail today it would set up tonight
and should be great walking after this.
While I did that Andy plowed the ice road figuring
that it had also accumulated enough snow for overflow
to become a problem if we got much more. At least
our ice road has held up. In fact, its in better
shape now than two weeks ago when I figured we would lose
it by the end of that week. All that fresh snow covered
up the black sand and gravel that was absorbing heat from
the sun and melting big holes into the ice and its
been cold enough that those holes have frozen right over.
So the ice road is actually in excellent shape, which
is fortunate, because the main road is not. Highways hasnt
been plowing the little snows off of our main road so
all that snow when it melts is going right into the road
bed. So far the cooler weather is holding things static
but as I mentioned before, if it ever warms up, things
are going to get messy.
Monday, March 31st.
We finally caught a break in the weather today. There
was fresh snow this morning because it came down last
night again but it never got that cold, so the snow started
to melt fairly quickly today. And we finally saw
sunshine!!! Sustained sunshine, yet! Which means
the sun broke through the clouds and we actually saw it
for more than a few minutes today and boy, did it make
a difference. We decided to go out snowshoeing on the
trail in the woods that we have been breaking for a cross
country ski trail for next winter and mark the trees on
either side of the new trail. That way in
spring or this summer after it dries out, we can find
it again, clean out some of the underbrush and widen it
in spots where we need to get a snowmobile and tracker
through next year.
I think I mentioned in the last blog that I wasnt
the most popular person in the world when we broke the
trail through with the neighbour on snow machines
following the snowshoe tracks Andy and I had made before.
There were a lot of tight spots where we had to go between
trees or around them and had this been a normal snow year,
we might have gotten stuck in the odd spot. Now that the
new trail is marked, we can clean it up and hopefully
it will be ready to track next winter. I really want to
extend it and make a long circle tour out of it, but that
might have to be done later in the year. I love skiing
out on the lake but between wind and overflow the last
few years, it has been just about impossible to ski there.
So a trail that can be short or long through the
woods would be awesome and one Im a lot more likely
to use on a daily basis. I think the neighbours
will use it as well. Now I just have to talk my important
half into building me a cross country ski tracker of my
own to pull behind a machine so that we dont have
to keep borrowing someone elses.
We were lucky we had snowmobiled over our snowshoe tracks
from before. With all these additional snows the track
was nearly obscured but at least it was still good walking
with a hard packed frozen trail underneath. We hit a spot
we snowshoed and snowmobiled across before but decided
this time that we would go around it. Its
a bit of a pothole that has a lot of trees around it of
varying ages, but most of them have bright red needles
on now dead branches and water rings a couple of feet
up the trunks. We have a few spots like that in
the back woods where theres a natural depression
and water has filled them up well up into the trees. Normally,
the huge pines our woods had would have sucked that water
up like there was no tomorrow, but after the mountain
pine beetle went through and killed all of the mature
pine, many potholes that have filled up with spring melt
have never dried up and after a year or two, all the surrounding
trees with their feet in the water have died.
Chances were pretty good that when we go out there to
clean up the trail this summer, that clearing we so easily
crossed this winter will be full of water and there is
no way we will be able to walk or ATV across it so, we
decided to make a new trail around it and mark it as we
went. That was a mistake.
Because it was so warm today, the snow was really wet
and soft. On a packed snow machine trail under fresh
snow, it didnt matter, but boy, it sure made a difference
where there was no previous trail!
We didnt go through so far into the snow with our
snowshoes that we couldnt continue on, but Andy
was breaking trail in front of me with his longer rawhide
and gut shoes and he was still sinking in a bit. Had I
been in the lead with my shorter more modern snowshoes,
I think it might have been a different story. I
could very well have been stuck there until spring, whenever
that might be....
We had our two dogs with us as well as a neighbours
spaniel that weve been looking after. Shes
a short legged thing and small so she wasnt sinking
into the snow too badly and our hound dog is really strong
and agile, so athough she was sinking in, she was strong
enough to leap through the snow. It wasnt until
we looked back and saw our big Rottie cross wallowing
through the snow well behind us that we realized breaking
a new trail in those conditions might not have been a
great idea, especially on a side hill where we were now
standing that the sun had been shining on for part of
the day. It was great snow for making a snowman but definitely
not for breaking trail. With the poor dogs struggling
through the snow behind us while we tried to stomp a deeper
trail for them, we broke back out onto the previously
packed trail much sooner than we had hoped to,
but it was just too hard on the animals to keep going
the way we were, especially on old River dog with his
hips weakened by age. Not that it was all that easy on
our bones either. I know the dogs are going to sleep well
tonight and Im thinking we will too!
It wasnt until we got back out onto the road and
took our snowshoes off that I realized why mine had become
so heavy. Andys old fashioned snow shoes were perfect
but my new age light weight aluminum ones were encased
in wet snow that had frozen into solid ice.
Note to self, do not go snowshoeing in warm, soggy
snow with fancy pancy new snowshoes.
You know, sometimes I think people from a couple hundred
years ago were a whole lot smarter than we think we are.
Many things that they invented or designed then work better
in some conditions than stuff we reinvented does now.
While the Rottie might disagree, it turned out to
be an enjoyable day but if someone had told me
last fall I would still be snowshoeing just before the
first of April, I might have looked at them a little funny.
On the other hand, winter often lasts until well into
May here so maybe not.
We are supposed to have a cold front moving down from
the north in the next day or so, and it looks like its
bringing sunshine with it. I actually wouldn't mind some
colder nighttime temperatures. We noticed today when we
broke out onto the back trail and took our snowshoes off
that the trail I packed with the snow machine yesterday
didnt actually freeze up, probably because of the
fresh snow on it from last night insulating it a bit.
At nearly 8C or 46, today seems to be the beginning of
warmer daytime temperatures and we certainly noticed that
on the trail as well. We saw snow fleas out on the
snow all along the trail for the first time and thats
usually a good harbinger of spring. There was
also a little spider and a tiny beetle farther along,
so heaven knows where they came from. You have to wonder
when these insects end up sitting on top of 16
of pure white snow what they think, if they do actually
think. Or maybe they were little eggs in the fall and
theyve hatched out in the soil under the snow. They
must have some little clock inside them like a hibernating
bear that says, okay, time to wake up and head for the
surface. Its springtime! And then they get there
and go, What the f
Now that I think of it, thats pretty much what every
Canadian east of Ontario has been saying for the last
three blizzard days. :-)
Oh well, you know spring has to come some time. Its
just a matter of which month and here in Canada, we have
several to choose from.
One thing that we haven't seen a lot of so far this
spring is birds. We went to town a little over
a week ago and this time of year you would normally expect
to see swans, geese and ducks on the river next to the
highway near Redstone where the fowl hang out until the
lakes open up. I searched both going in and coming out
and finally saw a couple of swans on the river coming
back but that was it. We finally had two show up on the
lake on the same day as we had the wiener roast. They
sat out on the ice for a while but they were gone by late
afternoon. A few days later Andy called me outside
to look at what we thought might be the first robin of
the season. It was snowing at the time (what else
is new) so it was hard to tell until I took at look at
the photo on my computer. Blown up you could see that
it wasnt a robin but whats called a Varied
Thrush. Its mate was with it but those were the
only two birds we saw and they were gone shortly after
Yesterday we saw a huge V of Canada geese going over while
on our walk, and they were headed north so there must
be hope for spring after all. I think that the unusually
cold winter in the States has slowed down bird migration
to some extent and thats probably a very good thing
if were going to have a late spring. According to
Environment Canada weather forecasters that is the case.
But really, who believes the weatherman anyway?
One thing that has changed a lot in the past couple
of weeks with all this local snow is that the mountains
are now white. In fact, theyre whiter than
they have been all winter. Not only was it strange to
see black mountains this winter but it was also a bit
of a worry, particularly for folks at lakes like Charlotte.
Charlotte Lake froze up really late this year,
and was very, very low when it did. The result
has been that most residents out there have had their
water lines frozen. It does not bode well if their lake
levels dont come up and the only way that will happen
is if the snow level rises on the local mountains. These
last few snows seem to be accomplishing that from the
looks of the mountains when we can see them,
which until today, has been kind of rare.
Maybe we should start snowmobiling finally.....
Last week's blog is at March
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!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!