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Wilderness Adventures - May, Week One/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.

07/05/2007 4:23 PM

Going, Going .....Just About Gone

The Nimpo Lake ice is dissolving rapidly this afternoon. And you know how I commented below that the fellow who said a few days ago that the ice would come off May seventh was going to be wrong? Well, I have to go eat my shoe, now. It looks like the ice may be cleared off of most of the lake by late this evening. Or before I finish writing this article, I'm not sure which will come first.
Only an hour ago I took a picture of the lake out in front where our swimming hole had been jammed full of moving ice and there was little open water. You'll see that the picture of the lake on top that I just took suddenly shows all kinds of open water in front and brisk winds are moving the ice around quite a bit.
My Mom just called me from down at the other end of Nimpo Lake and said the North Arm just cleared right down to the point where it's actually the Main Arm. And that's happened only in the space of a few hours.
Funny ice this year. It's simply just dissolving. The surface looked really black yesterday evening but I thought sure it would be another couple of days before it really started to disappear. Wrong again.
Our loon pair is back in the little bay near our meadow that they occupy every year and I've been hearing loons call around the lake a little more. Still a lot less than usual for some reason or other, but at least a few are here. The Goldeneye ducks have been battling steadily out on the lake for the last two days. It looks like there are a lot more males than females around and it's causing quite a ruckus on the lake.
We watched something huge and brown fly down onto the ice in front of our cabin this morning, swoop over the short bit of open water and take off with something in its claws. I couldn't tell what it was but I think it must have been an owl, although it seems highly unlikely. The only other thing might have been an immature eagle because the coloring was right but it seemed much larger than one of them. All I know is I had to go around and do a head count on the cats because it was definitely big enough to pack one of them off.

06/05/2007 1:03 PM

Not Yet

Even though we have a good wind blowing and warm temperatures, Nimpo Lake still isn't letting go of her ice. Right now it's 13C or about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and it didn't freeze hard last night so our little swimming hole was open this morning and the ice on Nimpo is looking pretty rotten. Still, not rotten enough yet, I guess. One fellow estimated the seventh of May for ice out but unless something tremendous happens before tomorrow, he's going to be wrong.
I was down at the other end of the lake today, and there's open water there nearly out to the little island in front of the resort. They sit on the north end of the Main Arm and Nimpo Creek flows into the lake there, so it's often open before we are. The danger of that is that a good south wind could push the ice sheet right into the bay and tear out some of the docks as it did a few years ago.
Andy went down with his Bobcat to help clear the metal debris out of the burned hangar this morning. Terry had friends and neighbours over looking through the mess for data plates. We managed to find one for the Cessna 185 and he found a couple more for the Supercubs, but look as we might, we couldn't find the last Supercub plate, even though we knew exactly where it should be. We found army rations thoroughly cooked behind the seat and it was weird to be able to identify a neat row of sausages in the foil of one, and beans in another, even though they lay among melted slag.
I was never aware of the importance of a data plate, but apparently you can build an entire airplane as long as you have one and it is not classified as a home built plane. No data plate, and it's home built. But the challenge of finding a tiny plate of metal no bigger than a credit card and not nearly as thick among tons of metal either blown to bits or melted to slag, insulation, wiring and who knows what else, is a large one indeed.
Being in that hangar is a sad reminder of all that was stored there but it's utterly amazing what strange things you come across. Where the fire was unquestionably hottest at the back of the hangar, the concrete floor literally exploded into pieces from the heat, but where it's the worst behind the truck, there's nothing there. There was a large tire behind and off to one side, and the fuel tanks on the truck so the only thing I can think happened is that the fuel spilled over to the tire and started burning it, and along with the tires on the truck, created enough heat to break up the concrete. Oddly, the canopy melted right into the truck box and concrete pieces are laying on top of it and the huge steel beam above it and the snowmobiles sagged considerably. But there just isn't any sign of what created such tremendous heat. Near the truck there were several one gallon cans of paint stored against the wall and stacked one on top of the other. Although the cans are burned, they didn't melt and the cardboard under the layers of cans is unburned. It just doesn't seem possible that the cardboard wouldn't burn when in proximity to enough heat to sag the metal beam above it. But as the fire investigator told Andy, fire does very strange things and I guess it does.
Our dog, who has a serious hate on for predatory birds, just alerted me to the fact that there were bald eagles around. I just watched a dog fight between two of them over a third, presumably a female. Unfortunately, by the time I saw them they were flying so high over the lake that I couldn't get much of a picture. It looked like the one eagle took great offense at the invasion of his territory by another. They battled for a while until the one gave up and flew off into the distance, the other keeping a watchful glide behind him for a ways. We're getting a lot of bald eagles on the lake and territory is probably getting thin. I always thought they were supposed to be an endangered bird but you sure wouldn't guess it around here. I expect the loons would argue the endangered part as well.
At least the Trumpeter Swans are happy. I just noticed a pair of them sunning themselves out on the lake and since they're sitting in slush, they're probably pretty darn confident that absolutely nothing can make it out on that ice to get them.
04/05/2007 9:30 PM

Little Fishies

No poker game for me tonight, so here I sit brokenhearted, ..... well, you know how the rest of that ditty goes. As a result, I have no excuse to not post an article tonight. Not that I don't have lots of other stuff that should be done, but still, one must blog when one can. Sounds silly, doesn't it? Trying to sound somber or poetic like some of our famous Statesmen of the past is very difficult when a word like 'blog' is used. It just doesn't have the panache that some words have like litmus, paradigm or symposium. Now those are some words that have been beat to death in the past decade. Especially by politicians.
Okay, it's Friday night, the weekend is here and I promise I won't get started on politicians. Anyway, I'm wondering when some smart person is going to come up with a really classy synonym for 'blog'. I get embarrassed every time I use the word, but although I sneak the term 'article' in there every once in awhile just to raise the bar a bit, its definition doesn't really fit the bill with regards to what I write here. Not by a long shot.
Strictly defined, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that one of the definitions of article is: a nonfictional prose composition forming an independent part of a publication. Did anyone understand that? Because I didn't. I just know it sounds a whole lot fancier than 'blog'.
Anyway, with regards to an alternative to 'blog'.... Apparently it was derived from the term web log but some computer nerd probably decided that it sounded too pretentious and so shortened it up. And it probably worked for him while he was in university playing video games and drinking beer with his buddies at the sports bars on the weekends. But it's got to be terribly embarrassing for the poor CEO of a top corporation who is forced to 'blog' for his company every day. Can you imagine? He probably gets laughed right out of the country club every weekend!
Every day I hope that another computer nerd will come up with a better term so that 'blog' can die a slow death but with my luck, it's a term that will be with us forever. Kind of like huh or eh.
On to other subjects. It seems like every time I open my mouth, or more specifically, touch fingers to keys, Mother Nature bites me in the butt. Here I talked yesterday about the weatherman calling for higher temperatures but most important was that it not freeze at night. So what happens? It dropped to -6C or about 22 degrees Fahrenheit last night which froze all the open water pretty hard. That meant that even though it got fairly warm today, it took a good part of the day for the water to open back up again. So Andy took it upon himself to go out in the canoe this afternoon and break up some ice. There's barely a big enough area in the swimming hole to turn the canoe around, but he enlarged it quite a bit. Can you tell we're getting a little impatient about spring here? I think they used to call it cabin fever in the old days. My Dad just used to call it 'squirrelly'.
Tonight, just before dark, Andy called my attention to some water rings on the very edge of the swimming hole and while we watched, we could see something quite large come up and break the surface of the water. I couldn't tell if it was the snout of an otter or the front half of a dark fish, but Andy was pretty sure that what he saw before he called me over was too large to be a fish. Then I saw a bunch of little fish, about four inches long jumping out of the water. Our best guess is that the otter was cruising the edge of the ice and came on a school of fish drawn to the light. I'll bet you those little buggers are looking forward to ice off too.
I was driving home yesterday from Nimpo and just coming across the bridge over the Dean River at Fishtrap when a young Native boy reared back on his fishing pole and landed a nice rainbow on the bridge deck. No sluggish fish, that one! It was bouncing around on the end of the line like it was warming up for a marathon rather than having just come out of the near freezing water that it had been living in for months. Lots of color on it so I couldn't tell if it was a spawner or not, but the boy looked pretty pleased with himself. Word must have gotten around because the bridge railing was lined with young Native people today, some with rods and some with just some fishing line wrapped around a pop or beer can. It's illegal for non-Natives to fish the Dean River right now so I can't wait until we can start fishing in the lake. When it warms up, that is.

03/05/2007 7:39 PM

Wet, Dry and Frozen

We are in that unique period during breakup where you get the odd tiny rain or snowstorm yet the dust is flying on the road, and the lake is still frozen. We had reasonably warm temperatures on Tuesday and it didn't freeze that night, so it actually gave us a bit of a head start on thawing out the 'swimming hole' in front of the house. The ducks paddling around in it helped to that end as well. Unfortunately, it did freeze again last night so it was slower to thaw out today. Still, slowly but surely, the open water expands from shore a few inches a day.
I played hooky outside on Tuesday and worked a little out there yesterday, so like it or not, I was glued to the computer today. The odd nice day ends up putting me farther and farther behind which means the blog gets sacrificed, which is why there was none yesterday.
Andy continues to pull stumps so that it's beginning to look like we've been surrounded by a herd of octopus, and he's used the Bobcat the last couple of days to build a retaining wall for the garden out of some of the big beetle killed logs. We're killing two birds with one stone. We've got a huge pile of dirt in the future garden, piled there last fall when the porch was built, and we've got a lot of big logs laying around now. A retaining wall gets rid of some of both. It also provides the garden with a heat sink of sorts.
Since we're in growing zone one or less, (we can't grow stuff that a lot of Alaska can,) you kind of need to create a false zone for perennials here. A few years back I went back to my old farm in Saskatchewan and got some divisions of plants that I brought back and put into a 'holding' pen made up of heavy black felt to see what would make it here and what wouldn't. Most have survived the last few winters but the 'pen' is getting pretty crowded. Apparently the plants like it quite well in that environment and have thanked me by outgrowing their area. Apparently it's become so overgrown that the mice think it makes the perfect winter home under all the snow with a built in supply of food and I lost a few plants and bulbs to them this winter.
In most exposed places where I have plants, very little green is showing yet, but in the 'pen' where plants have been protected under a good layer of snow and their own leaves and stalks from the year before, there are already a few coming right along, even this early in the year. I figure if we can get a retaining wall built and lined with rocks that hold the heat, then the garden area is protected on all sides except the lake side. Unfortunately, that's also where the cool breezes come from so I'll have to build a protective wall there eventually. The garden area sits in a bit of hole down below the L shape created by the house, driveway and garage and with a retaining wall on the east side, the temperature is considerably higher there than elsewhere in the summer. That gives the plants a boost during the short growing season here and extends the season on both ends. That doesn't mean I'll be growing bananas or figs any time soon, but I'll be able to push the growing zone to two or three, and at least I can have some flowers.
I've already got my eye on a spot down by our flags that seems to be the hot spot in the yard, judging from the number of ants in the hill there anyway. I think I can put some raised beds in there for a few vegetables. We can't grow much in the way of those either but a few fast growers will make it in the right spot. Since I don't like greenhouses, that's about the only other choice.
Our temperature is around 5C or 40 degrees right now and got as high as 10C or about 50F in the sun today. The weatherman is calling for higher temperatures for the next few days, but even if it doesn't freeze at night it'll make all the difference in the world. The prairies have been enjoying really high temperatures for the last few weeks with it being as high as 28C or up to 85F during the day. Boy, would I like to see a little of that! Mind you, the way the snow melt is being absorbed into the ground, it would only bring on the forest fires.
There's surprisingly little water laying around except in the real low spots. We went for a walk in the woods for a couple of evenings and couldn't believe how well the melt is being absorbed. We don't know if it's because there was so little frost in the ground so it's soaking in, or if it's the stiff breezes we've had all spring carrying a lot of the moisture away, or both. This time last year you were swimming more than walking on the back trail. Still, the Highways crew have their share of problems. There's a few roads flooding out locally. I think they're lucky though. Because it's been so cool it's been a very slow melt so they're not getting nearly the flooding they might have with a fast melt.
Nimpo Lake has surprised more than one person with its steadfast determination to hang onto its ice cap. The owner of our air charter service came back up to ready his lodge and cabins in expectation of beginning his season soon. Not so. No floatplanes going out yet! Not even close. Although in the right light the lake is looking blacker, there's still no room for the ice sheet to move and start to break up. Although it doesn't normally happen that way, I suppose one morning we could wake up and it'll all be gone. Still, even with Nimpo Lake frozen there's still lots of life out there. The dog just sounded off at an otter on our back shore and the quackers are still at the front. Another harbinger of spring, a hummingbird, arrived yesterday.
Andy just came in from checking the ice and said it's not even candling, it's just turning to mush. As far out as he could reach from the dock with an oar, it just disintegrated when he touched it. I noticed that our 'swimming hole' already has ice crystals forming on its surface even though it's well above freezing. It makes sense that if the ice is actually dissolving it must be bringing that water temperature right down.
So here we sit on our sack of seeds...waiting and waiting....

01/05/2007 8:51 PM

Happy First Day Of May

Shhh. I'm saying this very quietly and knocking on wood while I do. We actually had another nice day today. Nothing spectacular but there was some sun, warm temperatures and only a breeze.
We've suddenly been inundated with birds of all kinds. Our tree swallows are back and hopping mad because the chickadees are setting up house in their nesting box. Of course, the tree swallows are always hopping mad when they first arrive because it seems there's always a threesome and I'm assuming that's not considered entirely appropriate in the avian world. Two of the three spend day after day doing aerial battle until one finally seems to win the girl. Often there are six that come in and the same thing goes on, with the skies out in front of our house looking like it's in the middle of a dog fight between the Allied and German Air Forces in the Second World War. It can last for weeks going from battling for the girl to battling for the nest. Why not put up more nesting boxes you ask? Well, I've already seen what happens when a single red winged blackbird finds the feeder. I figure half a dozen tree swallows fighting over one nesting box is plenty. And now that the chickadees have joined in the fun....
Speaking of which...they were kind of fun to watch last night. We're blessed with large windows overlooking our view and our dining room table sits right in front of them, so we get to see lots happening outside. I was watching a pair of chickadees sitting on the railing doing a funny little 'shake your feathers' kind of dance that I had never seen them do before. We had decided it must be some kind of mating ritual when suddenly, YEP!! It was! Gotta love spring.
Shortly after that we watched an otter do a fast hump and bump dash across the ice on Nimpo Lake from the point over to the big island where he dove into a thin line of water along the shore. It must be pretty tough on them right now having to be out in the open so much because there still isn't that much open water. Although it definitely opened up a bit more today. A pair of big Goldeneye ducks arrived in front of the house and have been diving for chow all day. A muskrat just went cruising past this evening so he'll help to keep the water open along the shore too.
I bought a finch feeder the last time I was in town in the hopes of making it more difficult for the blackbirds to clean out the seed while still providing some for the chickadees. Apparently it appeals greatly to the bird it was meant for because the purple finches arrived just today and they're having a high old time with the feeder. While the chickadees have finally figured out how to use it, the white throated sparrows and some of the juncos are too fat to fit comfortably on the perch and spend all their time sitting on the railing looking disgruntled.
I've never seen these white throated sparrows here before so something must have changed on their path of migration. The cool spring, perhaps. The one thing I would really like to see around our place are bluebirds, but for some reason we don't get them. I saw a couple several weeks ago down at the other end of the lake while we were clearing beetle kill for my Mom, and saw them many times over the course of four days. I can only assume that we're too close to the water.
Last night we were standing out on our dock trying to determine how much the water has come up when I heard a bunch of wing beats. Right over the house flew this huge flock of geese in a loose horseshoe formation, but they never made a sound. We would never have known they went over had they not been so low and you could hear the sound from their wings. We still don't know what kind of geese they were. They didn't look at all like Canada Geese and were way quieter obviously, but we were in such shock with the lack of noise we didn't get a good look at markings. They were just a nondescript color. Or as Andy put it, looked like faded out Canada Geese. However, of all the birds coming in now, the best thing we've seen so far is the loon riding low in the water down on the point tonight. He's not making much noise, but he's there.
I've switched to a new week so you'll find last week's articles at April, Week Four.

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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!
Water and ice.
Solid ice.
Two swans on the ice.
Canoeing in the ice.
Birds at a feeder.
A Goldeneye duck.
Two ducks hunting.
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