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Wilderness Adventures - March, Week 4/2007

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.

You can search this site for a subject of interest to you at the bottom of this page. Check out the Picture of the Day.

29/03/2007 6:14 PM

Taking Down Beetle Kill

We spent most of the day in the salt mines today. Well...maybe not quite hard labor but we worked pretty hard at knocking down eleven beetle killed pine, cleaning off branches and cutting the wood up. Unfortunately, the wind was howling again. Gee, what a surprise! As a result, we lugged a lot of branches a lot farther than we normally would have, carrying them down to the lake where they could be safely burned on the ice.
A few of the pine were big old hairy things, with big branches and lots of needles, but we've kept it cleaned up pretty decently around here. I think that's the secret. Clean up the branches after every tree you knock down and that way you don't end up with a really horrendous mess to clean up. Obviously there's still a lot of needles on the ground that fell off the branches, but it's pointless to spend the energy raking all of those up when the next tree down will just dump more. Once we get all of the dead trees down in one area, I'll go around and do a really good rake to get them all cleaned up. I wouldn't mind leaving a good layer on the ground to suppress weeds and form a mat to protect the soil, but I think they may pose a fire danger this summer.
I'm not positive, but I think this puts us at about 50 trees knocked down on the property so far, most of the work done by Andy. Today I could spare some time from the computer and since I was out there, we could knock down trees close to the house. I get to pull on the rope Andy has tied up in the tree while he cuts. Sometimes the tree goes off a little from where it should, probably more because of wind than for any other reason, but most land where we want them to. There is a dent in the gutter from a 'miscalculation' a few weeks ago and I would prefer to not have that repeated. It was a lucky thing the tree was a small one or it would have messed up the deck and put some serious hurt on the satellite dishes.
Unfortunately, we've got a couple dirty buggers that are leaning drastically the wrong way and could do some damage to the house if we can't get them pulled and wedged away. Definitely want to leave those tricky ones for a day with no wind. Mind you, at the rate we're going, we could be waiting a long, long time.
It's calmed right down out there now, but the wind was howling all night last night and gusting pretty good today. We had huge lenticular (I think that's the name for that particular cloud which looks like a UFO saucer to us laymen.) cloud formations above us this morning, indicating high upper level winds and the kind you do not want to be caught in while flying a small airplane.
Our temperatures never got much below freezing last night and were really warm today. The North Coast got nailed again today with nasty weather, bringing two feet of snow to Terrace and Stewart. Again.
Poor buggers...
The first Juncos arrived today sometime. Suddenly, we looked around and there was a small flock kicking around in the dead pine branches and needles just fallen from the trees we had knocked over. They've a really pretty song that's different from chickadees and it's nice to hear, over the wind that is. :-)
The red winged blackbirds are still throwing a hissy fit over the empty bird feeder, but enough seed, plants and bugs have been exposed by melting snow that they won't starve by any means, regardless of what they may want me to think.
I'm really excited about the new batch of pictures I got on cd yesterday from our friends Bill and Anita in Quesnel that they took while down to Nimpo Lake on their last trip. So check out the
Picture of the Day for the next while because their pics are always worth seeing!
I'm not sure yet if there will be any articles for a day or two. I would like to see what more we can accomplish in the next couple of days...provided I can move tomorrow, and it's my poker night tomorrow night as well. Sorry folks but I don't get out much, and sometimes, the blog just has to be sacrificed!
Have a good weekend.
28/03/2007 7:00 PM

Resort For Sale

I'm pleased to announce that a new resort/motel has been listed on the Commercial Properties for Sale page. Located right on Nimpo Lake and just a few feet off of Highway 20 west, it's handy to travelers while having lots of treed privacy. This is a year round business attractive to return business clientele. The Waterfront has five ground floor motel units as well as a suite with a fully equipped kitchen. There are three nearly new Pioneer Log Home built chalets with good views, decks and completely equipped with everything a guest could need. The largest sleeps six to eight people while the two smaller ones will sleep a family of four and five respectively.
There are approximately six acres with lots of lake frontage looking out over the Coast Mountain Range and loaded with spruce trees, providing shade and privacy to guests. At the back of the acreage there are six RV Sites with electrical and water hookups that are provided with a central sani dump.
In addition to a workshop, office, caretaker's trailer and fish house, there are numerous storage buildings and over 200 feet of docks providing lots of moorage for boats and floatplanes.
This property has good access and is centrally located with a first class Lounge and Restaurant next door and a complete general store carrying everything, including fuel, just across the highway. This is a well priced piece of property folks, and the owner is willing to negotiate.
Our weather today came under the category of cold and dreary. Overcast for most of the day, it wouldn't have been so bad if there hadn't been a very chilly wind blowing all day. Too windy to knock down trees it just wasn't one of those days where you even wanted to be outside. I confess I didn't even bother going for a walk today. The thought was just too depressing.
It was funny that I happened to write yesterday about Nimpo Lake ice making noise. The ice talked all night long and steadily. There was not a single moment when it was quiet. If it wasn't making noise close by you could hear it cracking from all different directions farther out on the lake. It even had the cats shook up and they sat on the logs outside with their ears flicking back and forth constantly like antenna. The temperature was dropping pretty fast last night, which was probably why the ice was so noisy. I expected it to be pretty cold by morning but the clouds must have moved in some time past midnight because as far as I know, it never did drop below -8C.
The weatherman is forecasting a fair dump of snow for us and lots of wind so I guess we'll see what tomorrow brings. You never know what you'll get this time of year so you just take it as it comes.

27/03/2007 6:23 PM

Describing A Lake Monster

I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to describe the sounds that Nimpo Lake ice makes. I was actually on the phone to Andy's instructor last night and while we were laughing about the sounds, I finally became aware that she had never heard lake ice make noise until she came here. I had just assumed she had because although she lives in Vancouver, she does spend a lot of time in her cabin on a lake.
Mazy also suggested that she may not have realized that what she was hearing were explosions in the hangar fire when the fire first started, because she had finally become accustomed to similar noises that the lake makes. When I got to thinking about it I realized how right she is. The sound that the lake ice has been making anywhere from every few seconds to every few minutes the last few days sounds very much like a muffled explosion. Like the wumpfh of of a far off bomb or mortar round.
I have no idea what makes that sound or the others that I describe as grumbling and muttering. You know that it has to be the ice either cracking or one ice plate moving against another much like the continental plates that the earthquake guys talk about.
Like the good old earth under our feet, ice can be stressed. There is no more terrifying sound when you've never heard it before, than that made by the ice when a vehicle drives over it in the middle of the lake and you are standing on the same ice wearing a pair of clunky cross country skis. You know you aren't moving anywhere as fast as that sound says you should be. That particular noise is actually a combination of sounds and you have to get used to it before you can pick them all out.
I think that the rumbling roar is the water moving in a wave under the ice in front of the vehicle. In fact, if you go too fast in a straight line on ice, that wave can eventually break up the ice in front of you. Which is why, when you build an ice road, as you near shore you curve into the exit from the lake rather than go straight at it. That way the wave is not hitting the shore directly in front of you. That wave is also the reason I get really freaked out and you'll see me waving wildly at my mother when she barrels straight at me on the ice while I'm out on skis. It isn't that I don't want her to stop or that I'm worried she's going to run me over. It's that she drives on the ice really fast, (She doesn't know how to drive slowly. The word just does not fit into her vocabulary.) pushing the wave under the ice right toward me, creating enough energy to potentially break the ice out from under my skis.
I don't know if it would actually happen but enough trucks have gone through the ice up north where they have an extensive ice road system in winter, that there is a strict speed limit on the ice roads and a curve before the off ramp to keep that destructive wave from building. And personally, I don't want to be the one to test the theory here.
Another noise that you'll hear when a vehicle comes driving down the lake is a steady crackling. Presumably the ice is cracking under the tires but whether that's surface ice or the deeper layers buckling, I don't know.
You can also hear a deep rumble and I'm guessing that it's the sound of the vehicle's motor reverberating off the ice and through the water beneath. As for the 'chuf, chuf' sound, I don't know what causes that sound but the ice only does it when there's a vehicle on the lake.
Then there's the 'woof'. Similar to the sound your boot makes when taking a step in old or crunchy snow. And you will only hear it when there is old snow on the lake. That is made by one ice plate separating from another and the one either rises or sinks in relation to the other, usually only a fraction of an inch. The reason why I know what makes that noise is because I have been standing on the lake when a crack suddenly goes snaking past my foot and a piece of ice about the size of the State of Texas suddenly drops half an inch from the piece it used to be attached to. It's one of those split second occurrences that makes you want to pull your heart out of your nose and contemplate checking the state of your underwear.
Don't ask me to describe what a giant crack going a distance across the lake sounds like because I can't begin to describe it to you. Suffice to say that if it's big enough, and off our point of land, it shakes the house.
The same goes for the UFO sounds the lake can make. That's usually when the ice is building or going out and we don't seem to hear it when there's a lot of early snow on the lake as happened this year. It seems most prevalent with good, clear, fast growing ice. And no, I can't describe it.
The lake is just like your ice cube tray. Leave the ice in it for a long time and it will begin to bulge up in the middle, crack, become cloudy, and sometimes will pull away from the walls of the ice cube tray. The ice on the lake seems more firmly attached to the shoreline than the ice in a tray, so you can imagine there would be even more stress on lake ice as well as more extreme temperature differences.
Run your ice cube tray under a hot water tap and the ice will begin to snap and pop. I think the same goes for the lake when the surface temperature differs a great deal from the ice, and when the temperature of water flowing into the lake is vastly different from one end to the other. There are two streams flowing into Nimpo Lake from opposite ends, while the Dean River runs out on yet another arm. This time of year there's warmer meltwater flowing into the lake, changing the temperature of the water flowing in a long line under the ice. But until that warmer water spreads out, mixes with the lake water and is diluted, it must come in contact with the ice in that part of the lake, and I can only guess that it would cause some major snap, crackin' and poppin'. Of course, you realize, this is all speculation on my part and most definitely should be taken with a grain of salt!
I've had many people look at me strangely whenever I've tried to describe how Nimpo Lake talks in the winter. I've finally had to conclude that lake ice elsewhere doesn't make the sounds that it does here, which really doesn't make sense because it is described by writers that live up north. Yet Mazy, who is often at her cabin during freeze up and breakup, has never heard her lake make these sounds. It must have something to do with the shape of a lake, water intake and outlets, surface of the lake floor, and temperature variations.
Or... it could all be in my head.
All I know is that if you step outside of our house right now, the lake sounds like a living, breathing thing making all the noises I've tried to describe above including some undescribed gurgles and 'glubs'.

26/03/2007 3:32 PM

The Caribou

The same little herd of caribou that were on our road and crisscrossing the back trails last week are still hanging around..
Yesterday afternoon when I went out for a walk I saw quite a few tracks that had been made the day before just before our last little snow squall. But I also came across tracks quite near our place that were really fresh. I kept crossing the herd's tracks as they meandered back and forth on the trail and eventually came out on it further down and walked down the middle of it.
I didn't realize how fresh the tracks were until I came out onto the road and came across their prints again, this time over top of Andy's truck tracks that had been made only an hour or so before.
Phyllis from over at The Dean called me this afternoon and asked if I had seen the seven caribou on the lake just off our point yesterday morning. Nope. But that explained the dogs letting out a few tentative woofs. I should have gone out and checked on them but on a Sunday, it isn't uncommon for people to walk, ski or snowmobile around our point and I figured that's all it was.
Phyllis watched the little herd for a while until they moved around into our bay regretting the same thing as I often do. No camera.
I have the worst timing with those rotten buggers.
I have been wanting to get a picture of the caribou hanging around the lake all winter and always seem to be somewhere else about the time they pass through. First, I was out skiing while they were in front of our house, and many times they've been too far off when we've been on snowmobiles. Here I find out that they were again near our place and I didn't even know about it. And sometime yesterday they were walking up the road while I was walking on the back trail. I just can't win!
At least my estimate in the past of the size of the herd was pretty close. I figured somewhere between six and eight of them were wandering around, just from the different sizes of tracks. Smaller tracks follow some of the larger so I have to assume those are last year's calves, while a pair of really big tracks usually wander through the woods a little farther away. There's one really humungous set of tracks so I'm still guessing that there's at least one bull in the group. Or a cow with really, really fat feet. Poor girl.
Andy's flight instructor, Mazy, did manage to get a picture of a caribou down at the other end of the lake a few days ago. Mary from Nimpo Lake Resort had been driving her grandson around on the ice when a caribou went running by her with its tongue lolling and looking pretty exhausted. Mazy was just starting out in the other direction on the ice in her vehicle when she saw the animal over in the bay. Although too far away for that little camera of mine, she still got a whole lot better picture of the caribou than I've managed all winter so I'll put it up on the right. Mazy said she saw a dog farther up the lake and took a picture of it because at a long distance it had at first looked like it might be a wolf. Yep, a dog, and hopefully not the one that was chasing the caribou. It was quite a way up the lake and it seems highly unlikely that the caribou would have continued running that distance if that particular dog was the culprit. Something had to have put it on the run though.
I was pleased to see today that there were no dog like prints following the caribou tracks I saw yesterday. There certainly was the week before but although both tracks looked about the same age, it's impossible to tell if there actually was something following right behind the little herd.
Even though our temperatures have not been extreme by any means, Nimpo Lake has still been thumping steadily, usually until afternoon, anyway. Then it seems to settle down until late evening when the ice starts grumbling again.
The red winged blackbirds have been cut off and are they ever cheesed off about it. I feel bad for the chickadees because there's no longer any food in the feeder, but the blackbirds are mobbing it so badly now that they went through a two pound sized tub of the little black oil sunflower seeds in one afternoon alone. Enough is enough! I wouldn't mind so much if the stores didn't charge a fortune for the things.
I'll have to see if I can buy one of those hanging finch feeders that only small birds can use the next time we go into Williams Lake so that I can continue feeding the chickadees.
More and more blackbirds have caught onto that feeder every year so that it's not only become impossible to feed them all, but you can't hear yourself think. That first trill of spring is really refreshing to hear after a long winter, but after awhile, it just becomes a cacophony of sound and enough to drive you crazy. Rather than wait until it gets really bad, I'll cut the flock off now and they can go back to finding seeds over in the meadow. They sound much prettier from that distance. :-)

25/03/2007 1:03 PM

The Poker Run

Yesterday dawned with a blizzard for the start of a community poker run put on by Len, a local business owner. The advantage was fresh snow on Nimpo Lake, making it a faster trip down to the north end where everyone was meeting rather than having to go the long way around through the woods. The disadvantage was in standing around in the wet, sloppy stuff for the hour and a half required for everyone to arrive and offload their machines if they were hauling them. The snow let up a bit once we got started, and you could see a watery sun trying to burn its way through the clouds.
Snowmobile riders bought the number of hands of poker they wanted to play and their 'boards' (index cards with their name and number of hands they would play marked on them) were issued to each rider at the start. Periodically, the riders stopped at a designated spot where they reached into a bag full of playing cards and picked a card. The suit and number of the card is duly recorded and initialed on the rider's board and they're off again.
It isn't a snowmobile race by any means, but rather a large trail ride intended for everyone, including families.
By the time we got to the lunch spot and a fire was started for a weenie roast, the sun was shining and it was really warm. It was a fun stop with a nearby meadow for the riders to go roar around in. Snowball fights broke out all over the place and it was difficult to get everyone up and moving again because it was such a nice spot to stop.
A small number of us zoomed ahead to the abandoned Nimpo Lake airstrip where we fooled around waiting for the rest of the group to catch up and got at least one person unstuck. It's surprising, but even with as much snow as we have lost to warm weather in the past month, you will still sink thigh deep if you step off of a packed snowmobile track. Which is why it isn't all that difficult to get stuck when playing in among the trees. It also isn't that easy to get the machine unstuck when you're wallowing around like a helpless walrus.
Len was a little disappointed that more kids didn't attend the ride but the ones that did definitely pushed the limit of both themselves and their machines. One doubled up pair didn't hesitate to tackle a steep little hill at the old airport that got them lots of air.
Besides kids, we had some teenagers as well as lots of women, a couple of cowboys and more than one crazy guy, so we had a great mix. Of course, the liquid refreshments may have contributed to the craziness a little but it was a pretty safe ride overall. The front end was wrecked on one machine when one woman accidentally rear ended another. Someone broke their skis right at the end, and I understand Oscar hugged a tree once and flipped his machine once or twice, cracking his windshield, and that was before the liquid refreshments! Of course he wasn't the only one that flipped a machine.
The packed trails were extremely icy under the fresh snow. Nimpo Lake itself was deadly slippery with the new snow providing no traction at all. You could only go so fast down the length of the lake, making sure to keep your speed as steady as possible. Slow down too much and you couldn't get going again. Speed up too much and you were either fishtailing the whole way down the lake or turning 360's. I think more than one machine was flipped playing around on the lake.
We started down from the old airport back to our starting point and it was a signal for the good weather to end. By the time we reached Nimpo Lake again, it was a full scale blizzard and driving the machines back home over the ice through whiteout conditions was not fun. I kept having to wipe my faceplate because I couldn't see through the snowflakes that built up on it in just moments, all the while trying to keep up a steady speed on the lake ice without turning circles. Unfortunately, I couldn't go fast enough and kick up enough snow to keep my engine light from coming on and overheating close to home. I wonder how many other machines were overheated yesterday running on gravel and ice?
We drove from our place up to Len's shop where we could choose our final playing card for the poker run but a lot of people rode up and didn't have the best surface to take their machines over. Len kindly donated hamburger while Richard and Leah from the Nimpo Lake Store donated their time, the condiments and chips and Richard's Bar-B-Quing expertise to provide a wonderful supper.
The winners of the poker run, (both top three poker hands and the worst hand) made out handsomely with cash prizes and I think that everyone really enjoyed themselves.
Thanks, Len, for getting the whole thing organized. I sure didn't think you could pull it off this late in the snow season!
More than one person got some great pictures so I'm going to try to post as many as possible for the next while.
My apologies for the lack of articles the last couple of days. I donated a little time to the event myself on Friday and then went on the run yesterday so I wasn't really up to writing last night either.
You'll find last week's articles at March, Week Three .

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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!
Caribou standing on the ice.
Plane, snowmobiles and people standing on the ice.
Plane and sleds.
Snowmobile rider in work coveralls.
People napping on snowmbiles.
People standing around a fire.
Snowmachines and people on Charlotte Main.
Several snowmobile riders on Nimpo Lake.
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