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Wilderness Adventures - May, Week One/2008

This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog!
If you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes, exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like 'Lake Monsters' about the Lakesounds just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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Check out the Picture of the Day.

07/05/2008 8:25 PM

The Prediction

I've declared Andy the winner with regards to his prediction that ice off would be on May 7th. Technically, it isn't all off yet since there's still a large floe jammed in on the shore opposite of us on Nimpo Lake, but who knows, it might still be melted by tomorrow. It's half the size it was this morning, and although it was much cooler today at only 6C in the shade and 10C or 50F in the sun, there is a stiff breeze to help break that ice up.
You know, it seems funny that even in the face of climate and environmental change that you hear about every day, our lake has been freezing up and thawing out pretty much the same time every fall and spring. We all use the standard dates of about the 7th of December for freeze up and the 7th of May for ice out. That doesn't mean those dates don't move by a week or so each way, but on average over a long period of time, those are the days. Looking back over past blogs, it would also seem that getting a good snow storm right around the first week of May is common too. So there you go. We may have 'small' changes but overall in the big picture, nothing is really that different.
Too many more explosions like that one in Chile could sure change things in a hurry though. Wow. Talk about a volcanic eruption! And they didn't even see it coming from the sound of things. Can you imagine what would happen to our world if a few volcanos of that magnitude all spewed ash into the atmosphere at the same time? It would be a dark, dark world and our climate would most definitely change!
So I'm really jumping the gun this year on a 'projected' project. I just got vegetable seeds in the mail today from McFayden Seeds, several weeks late, I might add. It's been years since I've ordered seeds since it's been years since I've lived in a climate where vegetables would actually grow. My hope this year is that we'll be able to get a greenhouse up in time to advance the yet to sprout veggies into a mega producing state of bliss. Or is it frenzy? Either way, I figure if I start a bunch of seed on the window sill, I should get something I can plant. (Yes, yes, I know. Get with the program and buy grow lights and put a heating pad under the seed trays. Not on your life! No investment like that until we've got a greenhouse for sure and even then, I'm too cheap to spring for the fancy stuff. I think I remember saving an old waterbed heater from going to the dump. It should be around here somewhere ....hmm.) I have until the middle of June until said unsprouted sprouts have to go into the ground. Or the greenhouse. Somehow I think that might be rushing the greenhouse date a bit but I can always use plastic for a cold frame until things get going.
Unfortunately, before ground can be broken for the foundations for a greenhouse, it has to thaw out. Then I have to move a big, raised, cold frame box that we made the effort to build and fill with good soil just last fall in the warmest part of the garden. Covered with black plastic, I figured the dirt within would thaw out and warm up quickly giving me the jump on things like lettuce. That was the dream anyway. It was also before we scored all that glass and decided we could build a greenhouse, and where that box is now, is where the greenhouse will have to go. More work. One step forward....two steps back.

06/05/2008 8:35 PM

Blue, Blue Water!

We are finally looking at blue water for as far as the eye can see, folks. The ice is off!!
There are still a few big ice floes floating around or jammed into the odd bay here and there but for all intents and purposes, she's clear.
Last night there was a clear line of water out from shore in front of our place for a few hundred feet and then ice in the rest of the bay out to the big island. There was a widening gap from the point to the big island and from there to the small island and a good opening in front of the peninsula across from the small island. It had opened up from our point to the boat launch across the way and the Short Arm going down to where the Dean River exits Nimpo Lake was at least half open, but our back bay where the docks are stored was still frozen over pretty good.
I figured for sure the ice in front would be gone by morning and was disappointed to see it hadn't moved one iota through the night. Probably because the temperature dropped quickly last night to -5C or 23F last night and there was a pretty solid fog bank this morning. So it was quite a shocker to look out only a short time later to see that the ice had literally dissolved.
We had a good wind come up first from one direction, and then another. That, combined with the warm temperatures and sun today was just exactly what was needed to melt the ice. Still, it was amazing to see the Main Arm, which was entirely ice this morning, entirely clear by late this afternoon.
We walked down to a neighbour's place that is located on the Main Arm this evening, just to see if the ice truly was out because while it might be out for us, it doesn't count as ice off until the Main Arm is clear. For as far as the eye could see, it was blue water, other than those bits of ice I mentioned before that were jammed into a bay here and there. That's the only thing that will save Andy. He predicted ice out for the 7th. of May and since it's only a few hours to midnight, those ice floes might last until then.
My prediction for the 10th. is out the window of course. Based on how extremely cool it was up until very recently, it couldn't hold in the face of our sudden warm temps and glorious sun. That's okay. I don't mind being wrong one bit if it means seeing waves on Nimpo Lake for the first time in five months. A real bonus is seeing those waves for the first time on a nice day and not on a grungy, overcast, windy, cold day as can often be the case.
Since the open water has been limited but the loons have been in for a few days now, there have been some territorial issues between the mating pairs, each accustomed to being in their own bay but unable to because of ice. Our back bay pair were stuck in open water off of our point while a pair that normally nest in front of Rainbow Lodge were stuck in our front bay. Between them was one poor, lone loon who literally got caught in the middle more than once.
Water in front of us finally broke through ice and joined open water off of our point yesterday so this bachelor meandered over in that direction, probably by accident because he was fishing underwater a lot. Or maybe he was trying to move in on the other guy's girl. Next thing you know there was a whole lot of carrying on and this boy did some serious water walking to get his tail feathers back over to his side!
This morning the Rainbow Lodge pair started making their way to the front of our place and toward the other pair, looking pretty purposeful and trapping this poor single guy in between. I figured there would probably be some fireworks and there very nearly was except that when I got my camera and came back out onto the deck, I think my movements were enough to convince both pairs that they should back off. There was a lot of caterwauling going on for awhile though.
By this afternoon, all of the mating pairs were where they were supposed to be because the ice had cleared out of their respective nesting areas, and all looked suitably content. There's a lot less carrying on, anyway. Except when the eagles are soaring overhead. Looking for eggs already or just irritating the loons for or the other.
Speaking of eagles...we watched a strange performance yesterday. It's been pretty obvious that the bald eagles are in mating mode, but it would seem they're also into a little hip hop dance as a part of their ritual. Perhaps it's because the ice was still on so late this year, or maybe it's because I have the camera lens now to record some of these events and so pay more attention to the what the local birdlife is doing, but I don't recall seeing this before. A pair of eagles were on the ice just in front of the big island where some of them nest and they were doing this little hop scotch thing. One would jump up and over the other, then they would do a little peck-and-hug, then hop scotch again. The equivalent of the guy at the gym showing off his muscles? Funny to watch, anyway and it just doesn't seem quite fitting for a bird that's supposed to personify valor and dignity.
The satellite pictures on the news tonight showed a high pressure area building in with the jet stream going right over the top of us from the look of it. Although it may bring wind, with any luck it will also bring us a nice day tomorrow. Andy needs to do some dock repairs after the ice messed up our barrels. I'm torn about the weather being nice. On the one hand, I still have stuff to clean up on the computer for clients, but it's awfully hard to stay inside when the weather is this nice and the bugs aren't too bad yet.
I managed to make myself work inside on the computer for part of the day today, but I snuck outside periodically too. I helped Andy pull over a tree that needed to come down but that we didn't want to fall on the power line. Since it was still green, it was a good time to peel it after Andy cut it into lengths for fencing. Surprisingly, part of the tree had blue stain and a small length of bark and cambium layer was dead, even though the tree was very healthy. Pine beetles had gotten into it one or two years ago but the few adults I found were dead, and they only attacked one side of the tree. It had produced profuse amounts of sap and I don't know if that is what killed the beetles or if the spray Andy put on it did, or both. I do know that our other young trees on the property that have beetle holes in them are still staying green so far. We won't know until hot weather hits which ones are going to die, but it would definitely appear that young trees can fight off the beetle attack and fungus infection if there are only small numbers, and especially if the attack is only on one side of the trunk.
We haven't seen any sign of our chimney duck since his release on Sunday. I'm really hoping he made it okay. Interestingly, I've heard a few stories since, from other people that ran into the same problem, although not always with such a happy outcome. Many thanks to those of you that emailed your own duck story!

04/05/2008 6:15 PM

The Yucked Up Duck

We had a very interesting day yesterday and today. One of our 'Bad Hair Day Ducks' had a very bad day. Actually, he had a few. About three days ago I heard some rustling in the house over by our fireplace chimney. I walked over and checked because I figured one of our cats had snuck upstairs and was in his favorite hiding spot under a fern. I didn't see anything and dismissed it. I heard it a few times more as did Andy but we figured it had to be one of the cats downstairs.
Then yesterday I heard the rustling sound very clearly a couple of times. Again I walked over to the chimney. No cat. I started looking up at the top because more than once we've had bats in the plastic and insulation in the ceiling but since the ceiling was finished this winter, there shouldn't be any way a bat could get in. I mentioned the noise to Andy and the only thing we could think of was that there was a bat near the top of the chimney or Squeaks, one of our cats, had found a new hidey hole next to the chimney in the basement and was rustling around there.
Last night after half our dinner company had left and as we sat visiting with a pair of old friends, you could distinctly hear the rustling again, and this time it was quite loud. Andy opened up the fireplace and took a look as he had before and still didn't see anything. Conversation stopped and started as we listened to the sound every time it started up again. We agreed that it sounded like the fluttering of wings and it absolutely had to be in the fireplace.
Andy grabbed a flashlight, crawled part way in, and finally saw a bit of something moving. Black from soot, the creature was almost impossible to identify and at first Andy thought it might be a Flicker. Not a favorite bird with any of us for the holes it will drill into your house or garage, but Andy finally saw the beak and realized it was a duck. I like ducks.... It had to come out. But since Andy has experienced them in the chimney before in the Okanagan, he stated unequivocally that getting it out was going to make one hell of a mess! Yeah... I kinda guessed that seeing as how you were dealing with soot and all.
We waited until after our company left and then Andy took a closer look at the situation. The fireplace insert is much like the old heatilators with baffles and what's called a 'smoke ledge'. There was no way you could reach up through those baffles, get above the ledge, and reach the duck. Since we knew the bird had been in there for two or three days, thirst was probably its biggest emergency. Andy got a spray bottle and sprayed water up through the baffle onto the duck in the hopes that maybe it could at least get some moisture off of its own feathers. And indeed, it didn't seem to mind the spraying at all. That's when I finally saw the duck, or at least its breast and part of its wing. The water had washed away enough of the soot so that you could see a white breast with red speckles.
I thought if we put an aluminum bowl of water and some lettuce on newspaper on the grate, perhaps the duck would come down on its own, so we installed those items, closed the glass doors, and waited. Nothing. And it was so dry in there that when I checked on the lettuce a short time later it had wilted to nothing. I decided to cut a big California orange in half because the smell is so rich and powerful and put that in next to the water. Andy tired and went to bed and a few hours later I checked on the duck. He had moved slightly so that you could hardly see him and he definitely wasn't coming any closer to the opening that would lead him down. I filled up the spray bottle and wetted down as much of him as I could see and then put a piece of the orange up on the ledge near the hole through which he had to come to get down. Bed time.
Andy gets up at 4:00 a.m. and decides to turn on a floor lamp near the fireplace thinking that instead of trying to reach the daylight showing through the top of the chimney, perhaps the bird would be drawn to the light showing through the fireplace doors. Back to bed.
When Andy got up later he came downstairs and looked at the fireplace wondering how the heck he was going to get that yucked up duck out of the chimney. Then he noticed smear marks in the soot on the glass doors. He opened up the doors and sitting in the little aluminum bowl of sooty water is this sorry duck with its head and neck curled around on its back, half asleep.
Close the doors! Quick!
The rest of the operation was carried out with military precision. Andy filled up a Rubbermaid tub with warm water adding only a slight touch of dish soap and carried it down to the chopping block outside. He propped open the basement door and donned a pair of rubber gloves. He had to chase away a couple of cats who were watching this entire operation with great interest. Obviously something very fun was going to happen and they wanted to be in on it. This time when Andy opened the fireplace doors the duck was still in the water but facing him so Andy had to move pretty quickly to grab the bird. He figured the last thing our white walls needed was a freaked out, soot covered duck flying all over the room. He got hold of the duck and tries to get down the stairs as quickly as possible because this thing is dripping black all over the floor, out the door and sits the duck into the warm water. Where the duck was noticeably upset before, he said it just calmed right down as soon as it hit that water so he tried to gently wash and rinse the soot out of its feathers. He didn't want to do too much because he didn't want to hurt it or wash away too much of the natural oils water birds rely on, but he said he hardly even had to hold the bird when he poured warm water over its back. It actually seemed to like it. And it even let Andy wipe its beak off.
That done, Andy picked the bird back up and carried him down to the shore where there's a grassy little ledge just above the waterline and set the duck down. It hopped straight into the water and started swimming away. He said it did try to flap its wings but he thinks he got the duck's wings too wet for it to be able to fly. Or they may have been damaged from the flapping in the chimney. In any case, he said the duck moved out so quickly he had to run back in to get the camera and back down along the shoreline so that he could get a picture of it. I guess it went over and visited with a couple of ducks not of his type, circled around a few times and then away he went. Andy lost track of him around the neighbour's point so later this afternoon he took the canoe out to see if it was still around, but there was no sign of it. Hopefully the little guy is okay. Andy figured so with the strength he showed while swimming, and he wasn't having any problem keeping his head up, or anything. Even if he isn't able to fly right now, as long as he's able to swim and eat he should be fine until he heals up. Poor little guy.
We did look him up and thought him to be a merganser of some sort, but it's kind of hard to tell from the pictures in the book because none of their ducks are sooty or that bedraggled looking after his little dish water scrubbing. One thing you could see clearly though was the red eye and I finally found a wood duck in the book that looked just like him, minus the leftover soot and scrub. Crest, iridescent blue green feathers on the back, short bill and rosy speckled breast. Oh, and did I mention that they nest in natural tree cavities? And, apparently, chimneys.
Our company arrived for supper last night complaining that they had no loons at the other end of the lake yet. By yesterday, we had several pairs. Where before the few we had were ominously quiet, yesterday morning Andy got up to them steadily calling all over the lake and they continued doing that for most of the day. Each 'pond' in the ice had its own mating pair and I counted up to six pairs spread between our bay, Short Arm, and off the point and small island. There is just nothing like the first call of the loons in the spring. But we did all agree that they are definitely late this year and I really don't know why.
I had to go over to Anahim Lake for a meeting today and was surprised to see that there's more ice and it's whiter there than on Nimpo. Usually their ice is out before ours, but ours is looking pretty thin and it's just more or less dissolving. Andy said when he went out in the canoe today and paddled near the ice it just undulated on the water, so it's pretty thin. I don't think it's going to make it another six days to the 10th as I predicted for ice out. I think that Andy's prediction for the 7th is more likely to be correct.
Yesterday was a magnificent day and contributed a lot to the ice melting on Nimpo Lake. It got up to 20C or 70F on the deck in the sun but just for the day. It went to about -3C last night and was up to 10C or 50F long before noon this morning. I think that at one point I noticed the temperature was at 14C or nearly 60F in the shade but I don't know if that's as high as it got. We didn't really get much sun today and what there was of it was pretty watery looking through the cloud, but there was no wind which made it very pleasant! However, the mozzies are already out. The snow isn't even all melted and the ice isn't even off, and already our neighbour has been bitten and we've all seen at least one. Yeesh....

02/05/2008 8:30 PM

The Beaver is Back

We've found evidence that our nemesis is back. The other day our neighbour told us that he ran into a beaver on the trail coming from the back bay on Nimpo Lake to a swamp on the other side of the trail. He called his dog back from it simply because a beaver can cause some serious injury to an unwary pup. He said that the beaver wasn't that big and it turned around and set off back to the lake.
Today when we went for a walk, we kept an eye out for any sign of the critter and sure enough, near the end of the trail, the beaver's tracks crossed to the swamp. There you could see fresh chips on the ground and the freshly cut stump of an aspen tree. A little farther down the trail were his tracks and the drag marks from the tree. We found the hole in the ice where he had entered the lake with his prize and over where the docks are all parked, we found signs of freshly stripped limbs floating on the water. I think the little rotter spent the winter under the docks after we tore up his lodge. Or it may be a new beaver that has moved up from the river and is setting up a new feed bin. The ice isn't even off yet the lake yet and already we're at war to save our trees from the little stinker!
It got up to 10C or 50F again today but was cloudy with heavy overcast. It's still above freezing out there now but there's been a soft rain for the last few hours. Not a rain actually but more a mist. It may help to melt some of the lake ice. That's opened up a bit more and there are lots of ducks. Many seem to be mating right now because there's all kinds of dancing and chasing and head bobbing going on among the different species. Check out the Mohawk duck up on the right. Those kind always look like they're having a bad hair day.
Our single loon is still sitting low in the water out among the reeds and looks more like a half sunk submarine than a bird. He dives every once in awhile for fish and either he's really hungry and more intent on grubbing up and keeping down the sound or he's just not interested in mating. He calls, but only every once in awhile. He must be keeping a low profile for a reason. Maybe it's the number of bald eagles around now. I hope that's not a sign of things to come.
The flooding in the eastern provinces is starting now and it looks like the States got hit with a humdinger of a weather system again last night with several tornados touching down. I know it's the season but it sure seems to be shaping up to be a bad year for those folks living in Tornado Alley. Boy I'm glad we don't get anything like that around here. Although one contributor did talk about a swath of trees that were knocked down for quite a distance in this area many years ago. It sounds like it was a plow wind and although they're rare, I think that they can happen anywhere.
It looks like our province is actually going to be blessed with a couple of nice days this weekend since a high pressure system is building off of the coast. We just have to get past this little low that's going over now but it should be cleared out by tomorrow morning. Unless it stalls, I guess. We sure could use with a warm spell. Although there wasn't much in the way of frost in the ground this winter, after that snow melted and then we got hit with that cold a week or so ago, the ground has frozen up solid. It looks like a lot of my perennials took a bad hit after that happened too. They were looking pretty good there for awhile but that is definitely not the case now. Sad doesn't begin to describe how decrepit a couple of them look.
I've got a few things to try and get done for the next couple of days so unless something comes up, like the ice going out by some miracle, I probably won't be writing for a day or so.
Have a great weekend folks!

01/05/2008 8:49 PM

The Loons Are Back!

You wouldn't know it though. They're sure keeping a low profile so far this year. I finally heard one down on the river today but he only called once. Mary down at the other end of the lake said she saw one a couple of days ago but he wasn't sticking around. He was strictly passing through! I guess you can't blame him after that little dump of snow.
Andy spotted a loon sitting low in the water out at the point yesterday but he wasn't around long either. I had to go down to Clearwater Lake today and on the way back there was a loon fishing in the Dean River as it exits Nimpo Lake, our first official spotting of the year. So they're here, but being awfully cloak and dagger about it.
There was an osprey cruising the same stretch of water on the way out, blue herons, an immature eagle sitting in our tree when we got home and another sharp shinned hawk cruising the yard as well so we saw lots of bird life today, much of it predatory.
We've got even more song birds showing up at the feeder including a newcomer, the yellow and black grosbeak. After spotting that hawk Andy said when he researched it on the Internet, that it was often described as the 'feeder hawk'. So I decided to cut off the bird seed today, but after it ran out I felt sorry for all the birds that came for supper this evening and so I put out a small amount. Start weaning them all off of the feeder and back onto natural food sources, I guess. If nothing else, it should make it a little harder on the hawk but then again, I figure it's a lot easier for birds to keep an eye out for him when food is regularly available than when they're having to scrounge for enough to eat.
Those birds keep a pretty sharp look out for that hawk anyway, I think. We were down looking at ice off of our point to see how much open water there was when all of a sudden the bird din went silent....and I mean silent. Not a peep. Suddenly that white hawk went wheeling over us a couple of times and then moved off. The bird song started up almost immediately (or cacophony is what I prefer to call it when that many blackbirds are involved) and all was well. Only a few minutes later and everything suddenly went dead quiet again. This time we knew to look up and sure enough, that little white hawk was making another pass. For every bird to quit making noise that abruptly must mean they're all always on the look out for predators. Except for bald eagles, that is.
We had just arrived back home when River let out a bellow and you could immediately recognize his, "There's a big bad Eagle close to the property!!!!" Andy came in and told me to grab the camera and look up through our upper front window. Sitting in the top of a spruce only a few feet from the house was an immature bald eagle and I noticed when I stepped out onto the deck that the blackbirds in the tree below him were still singing. Maybe they know that unlike a small hawk, he's too big and clumsy to pick one of them out of a tree.
The lake opened up quite a bit today along the shoreline, wherever there had been pressure ridges or cracks, and in the reed beds. Andy went out in the canoe today to see if he could break up even more ice and although it was thin on the edges, it was still work. Might as well let Mother Nature do it. She finally seems to be on the ball when it comes to ringing in spring.
Temperatures dipped to -7C or 19F last night but warmed quickly in the full sunshine today to around 10C or 50F and finally melted most of that last snowfall. There's still evidence of it in shady spots and there's still lots of old snow in the woods as well, but we should lose it fast now. Or it's wishful thinking, who knows?
One thing we did today that we've wanted to for some time is stop off at a hill near Clearwater Lake on which two unmarked graves protected by Native style cribs stand. One was very, very old with weather beaten logs nearly melted into the ground and any identification long since gone, decorated only by bits of bright green moss here and there.
The other crib, also old, had been formed from posts and lumber, with a cross in front and a good sized pine growing up in the middle. The old white paint was ancient and peeling and any name on the cross was long since faded away. Local legend has it that a member of an outlaw gang, of Hole in the Wall fame or from Jesse Jame's gang, is buried on top of that hill. I've heard bits and pieces over the years that the outlaw lived there for some time before dying as an old man. Whether of old age or gone out with guns blazing because someone caught up to him, I have no idea. I don't even know if the legend is true but often when a story endures for that long there's some tiny grain of truth that formed it originally. It makes for a fun little walk anyway and whoever is buried there has one heck of a view!
There are going to be a couple of new listings coming up on the property for sale pages soon. I'm hoping to have the one up by tomorrow at the latest. It will be listed on both the residential and commercial pages since it is zoned for the former as well as 'tourist commercial' and is presently owned by and located next to Stewart's Lodge. It's a wonderful piece of property with a large house and loads of privacy with stunning views on five acres so if you're interested in property out here, take a look at those pages tomorrow. The only problem is that we don't have pictures yet so although we stopped over and took some of the view and outside of the house, they probably don't show the property at it's optimum. New pictures will be coming in the near future though.
Since it's the beginning of a new month and a new week, you'll have to find last week's articles at April 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!
Loon flapping wings above water.
Two eagles mating.
Duck from chimney on the water.
Wood duck with red eye and green blue back.
Black and white loons looks straight ahead.
Merganser in still water.
Large house on a hill.
Mixed colored plummage of an immature bald eagle.
Hooked beak and wicked eye of an immature bald eagle.
A Native style crib around an unmarked grave.
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