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Wilderness Adventures - Oct., Week One/2012

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 some great contributed stories and ongoing blogs, just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

Rolling over an image will give you its description.
Check out the Picture of the Day.

19/10/2012 8:10 PM

The Down Hill Slide

Our weather continues its down hill slide, which is to be expected at this time of year, of course.
We had to go to Williams Lake yesterday and it started to snow for the first time on Wednesday night. Oh glory! Great, we're thinking, the roads are going to be a mess tomorrow for driving in. But it turned out to be the weirdest night.... the temperature started going up through the night and was 6C by the time I went to bed and the snow had turned to light rain. When we got up in the morning it was still four degrees above freezing here, although it was a little cooler once we got up on to the highway.
It wasn't bad at all driving in but it rained most of the way back out yesterday evening and it was not very warm at all when we go there. In fact, it was a lot colder than it had been at six that morning! But we made it without having to deal with slick roads, and now we probably don't have to go back out again for another month or six weeks.
The snow has built up considerably in the past couple of days on all the mountain ranges surrounding us, including the Itcha Illgatchuz, which seem to have acquired quite a blanket in a very short time. There was a distinct chill on the air today, especially where you were exposed to wind. Brrrr! We went for a walk this afternoon when the sun came out for a while at around three degrees above freezing. (It had already dropped a degree.) We decided to go into the woods and wander around there and stay off of the main road and out of the wind, which was really, really pleasant! It's that wind that's a killer. It's bringing cold air over snow covered mountains and water that's dropping in temperature in a real hurry, so by the time it gets to us.... it's cold! Mind you, we're spoiled from all that nice fall weather and I admit it.
We still have our two baby loons alive and kicking but we're both concerned that the smaller one isn't going to make it out before freeze up. It just isn't growing as fast as the larger one and doesn't look like it's ever going to catch up. We saw a loon out on the lake just past the island while fishing a week or so ago and it seems to have something wrong with its beak. I just wonder if it's the same one that I saw its Mom trying to feed a month or so ago.
Both Mom and one of the youngsters were in front of the house and she would dive down, get a fish, bring it up, and then try to pass it off to the baby. It would take it from her and then drop it. She would dive back down, bring it up, and pass it off to the youngster once again, beak to beak, and again he would drop it and then look down at the water. He looked kind of dumbfounded, actually. This went on for ages and I got loads of photos. Not great ones admittedly because I didn't want to go out onto the deck and scare them off so I took them from inside the house, but I couldn't really see a problem with the beak then. But then I wasn't nearly as close as we were in the boat weeks later when the loon with the weird beak kept popping up beside us while fishing.
The loon that I think Mom was trying to feed was the larger of the two babies and it acted like no loon I had ever seen before. Right from the time it was young it would not leave its parent's side and stayed close all through the summer and fall, while the other, smaller one would range all over the place by itself. I think the larger loon might have benefited a lot from sticking so close to its Mother and probably got fed a lot more than the other.
We're pretty sure this was a new pair nesting on the back bay this year and maybe Mama has a new way of doing things. Maybe she feeds the heck out of one in the hopes that it will get big enough and make it out of here before freeze up, sacrificing the second baby if necessary. But I'm inclined to think that the one baby was just a real sucky one that wouldn't leave its Mom alone so she fed it more than the other.
In any case, all the mature loons are gone now so all the babies on the lake are on their own. Unlike their parents, we haven't seen much sign of them exercising their wings or trying to fly yet, although listening to the youngsters trying to get the hang of making a proper loon call has been hilarious. I don't know why but this year, one of them for sure is having a real problem. It almost sounds like a little kid that's trying to learn how to whistle or blow through a toilet paper roll and just can't quite get the hang of forming his mouth right. One of them, and I'm pretty sure it's the Mama's boy, doesn't even bother to sound like a loon. He just kind of cranks out a caw sound more like a crow when it flies overhead, or a Whiskey Jack in the fall when they tend to be looking for food.
I guess we'll see what happens later on here but the loons only have six more weeks maximum to grow and learn how to fly before the lake freezes over, and Andy's pretty sure the smaller one just isn't going to make it in time. Every time we walk past him in the back bay lately we've been trying to come up with some ideas on how to net him once things freeze up and try to overwinter him but I don't know how it would be done. I don't know how you could do it without the bird panicking in a net and I don't even know how you would do it out on the lake. Usually there's only about a one or two night space when the lake is freezing over fast and these guys get caught in a small pond farther out. The ice is often too thick to break with a boat to get out to the thinner ice, and of course, you don't dare walk out on it.
I dunno.....
I wonder how young loons even know when to fly or even where to go? Adult Loons seem to be one of the few birds that leave their youngsters behind to fend for themselves while they head to their winter feeding grounds, often leaving three months before the babies can go. It's funny that it works that way when you consider that geese and ducks and other water birds seem to take their young with them. I know the loon takes a lot longer to mature and is so heavy bodied that even though they're fantastic fishers and swimmers, they are awkward fliers, and under those circumstances it's no wonder that their numbers are smaller than other birds. They almost seem to be on the edge of being an evolutionary mistake, yet they range far into the Arctic, so they can't be. Unless climate change is gradually making it harder for them to nest early enough for the babies to make it out before winter. In any case, enough seem to make it out over a period of years to keep the population going, so I guess Mother Nature knows what she's doing. :-)
Check out the
Picture of the Day. I've put up a series of photos of fumblebeak losing the fish Momma keeps giving him.
17/10/2012 10:25 AM

The Never Ending Summer

I have to thank the number of people that have gently reminded me how much they like the blog. I recognize it as a very polite way of saying, “When the heck are you going to get back at it!!!!”
I will state my husband isn't that polite about wondering where the blog is.
Fact of the matter is, this fall has been so amazing that I just could not force myself to sit down in my darkened office in front of a computer when I could be outside. Having said that, I neglected my computer duties to such an extent that this past week or so since the weather has turned sour, I've been on the computer a considerable amount of time just playing catch up on the paying stuff. I'm still not caught up by any means since I now have to start into my calendar printing for this coming year's clients, but I'm breaking out for today to write a blog. I can't stand my dear partner's sad, lonely, heartbroken eyes any longer when he asks how he's supposed to stay up on the local news when there's no blog. Really?......
I have to emphasize that this is probably the nicest summer and fall I have seen for years and years. Every day was sunny, warm and while there was the odd windy day, most days were calm all through September and the first part of this month. While the nights were getting chilly, it didn't take long in the morning for things to warm up enough to get outside and do stuff.
I'm just thrilled with what I got done on my project list this fall, some with Andy's help since he runs the Bobcat, but lots of my own stuff including building a fence around the propane tank. The ugliness of propane tanks is a pet peeve of mine, especially when they're about 12 feet long, painted silver and plopped in the middle of the lawn. I've been wanting to camouflage it for years but this is the first time it hit the top of the list, mainly because Andy was off helping neighbours for a while and this one I could tackle myself.
Years ago I cut a bunch of strips 3 1/2 inch wide, 3/8” thick and 8 feet long when I worked at the mill on the strip machine and just paid the mill the going rate. They've been safely stored in our shed for about seven years so I finally dug them out and spent a few days getting them all painted up and dried. Not so easy when you mix hydraulic oil with an oil based paint and then slather it on. Sun or not they took a long, long time to dry. Then began assembly of my fence panels. I chose a day when Andy was gone because we don't work well together on woodworking projects, and I happily sawed and nail gunned away. It worked great and I just needed Andy's help to put the panels up when he got home. That worked too until the long panel for the back had to be mounted a few days later. That didn't work out quite so well because my measurements were off, the panel was 12 feet long, double sided and extremely heavy, I was tired, it was late, we were working on a slope between the tank and two shrubs with no room to move, and as I said, we don't work well together. We did finally get it up and screwed on to the posts but it was a dirty bugger and as usual, the air was pretty blue by the time we were finished.
Andy did some nice finishing work on the gate panel and Voila! It's done! Kind of..... I should have spaced the double sided boards more closely together because you can still see the damned propane tank behind the panels. So we have to slice some more boards lengthwise that I can nail in the spaces on the back layer of each panel, but it won't be easy. There's only a few inches between the back of the panels and the propane tank now and it's going to be a little tight fitting in there, but I think I can do it. However, now it's a matter of time and weather and it may not get done this year.
I've got a huge new flower bed cleared out, covered with plastic and a lot of gravel ready for planting next year as well as a smaller one down in front of the house thanks to Andy moving stuff with the Bobcat. Two more planter boxes are full of manure and dirt and ready for planting next year and everything is pretty much watered in, lines blown out, pump and hoses put away and tools put up, so I think we're ready for winter. The only thing left to do is to drain down the cabin but there still may be one booking coming so we haven't done it yet.
We got a bit of a start on the inside of our future woodworking shed and Andy has been working on the newest project for a little while this fall.
Actually, I think you would normally call it an OLD project since it's an old 60's vintage travel trailer that a neighbour gave us to save him taking it to the dump. Andy dragged it over here one day this summer on two flat tires which he's spent an inordinate time since trying to get off the rims. One rim is still on the garage floor with beat up old tire attached but I think he's finally going to give up and just buy two new ones. Sometimes you have to figure out what your labor is worth and I think he's got about $500 in time invested so far in trying to beat those things apart. Sometimes you just have to give up and go fork out some money.
This is a project I'm staying far, far away from right now and if you saw the inside of this little beauty, you would see why. He's tested the fridge, stove, oven and furnace and they all work, and he's sealed up the roof, so it's probably well worth fixing it up, but it needs some serious tender loving care. I'll get in there once we get to the designer and materials stage maybe but until then..... it's his baby.
We've often thought that there's a lot of gorgeous country in the Chilcotin that we would like to spend time going and seeing, but can't take our long, low slung RV, so this is supposed to be a little junker that we can take anywhere and not worry about ripping anything out from under it. I think it will be great but as I said, the first, messy stage is his to deal with.
Andy's been spending time bringing in wood in the past week and I've helped a bit. We've got so much great standing dead beetle kill around that getting wood is easy, but it's starting to blow down now so it's only going to be easy for the next few years. Once the wood is down for a short length of time, it rots and is absolutely no good to anyone so it will be a sad day once all the beetle kill has gone. Then it will be back to traveling miles to find dead wood standing or, cut down green, split it and let it season for a year or two before you can use it in the wood stove.
The weather is perfect for working outside now if it's hard work. It didn't get more than four degrees above freezing today so you don't have to worry about sweating. It's heavily overcast and snowing like crazy over the mountains today with a chilly little wind. It was really pleasant away from the lake where we were getting wood and there's no wind, but the breeze coming off the water back in the yard is raw! But do you know, amazingly enough we only got snow on the mountains two days ago? I think this might be the latest I've ever seen the mountains bare of snow and I mean, it was really bare! That hot summer and warm fall did a real number on the white stuff up there this year.
We've had little splatters of rain a couple of times in the past week. It has still amounted to only about 3/8 of an inch of rain but it was actually good to get it. We really, really need it. It's super dry out there and it's not good for plants or trees to go into winter without some moisture. All in all, we've had to consider ourselves pretty darned lucky to have had the weather we have for the past three months. It's been awesome!

This is the start of a new week so you'll find last week's blog at September Week One.

Anahim 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!

Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Adult loon feeds an immature a fish.
Sun lights a fog cloud in front of a mountain.
A man in a canoe fishing on Nimpo Lake.
Tawny field with geese and gorgeous Coast Mountains in the background.
Beaver floatplane comes in for a landing.
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