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Wilderness Adventures - West Chilcotin Blog

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.

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12/10/2014 12:30 PM

The Amazing Summer

It has been one long and amazing summer, which is why you haven’t seen a blog for nearly three months. Day after day the weather has been fine even into this fall when we’ve only just started getting cooler, blustery days.
The reason there is a blog today is because from the moment I got up this morning and looked out the window, it has been ugly outside! You could see fresh snow on the mountains and the closer hills, and more snow coming in. We have heavy, low clouds, a cold wind, and rain spitting on the window now and again. It’s just not a day I even want to go out into for a walk, although I may later. So it’s pretty much the first day in many months that I don’t mind sitting down in my office at my desk and pounding out a blog.
In terms of weather, this is the best summer and fall I’ve ever seen anywhere! We have had long, warm days with nary a breeze, and just as nice a nights. We had about a week of hard frosts back in September, I think, but most of central BC got hit with a killing frost that wiped out many a garden. We’re lucky to have the warming influence of the lake this time of year because it only set back a couple of perennials for me and since I didn’t have a veggie garden this year, it didn’t really matter. Since then, we’ve had a few light touches of frost but nothing major until maybe last night. It dropped to about three degrees below freezing and it’s been slow to warm up today.
We didn’t see our first snow up on the far mountains until around the first of October and that melted pretty quickly. A couple of days ago there was a light dusting on the closer mountains but that disappeared fairly quickly as well because we’re still above average temperature during the day going to 16C or 60F most days. However, I expect to see a fair amount of snow up in the hills by tomorrow. That will make the hunters happy.
We haven’t seen any rain to speak of all summer, certainly nothing that ever registered much in my rain gauge. I think we got a total of two tenths of an inch in the past two and a half months. Fire bans finally came off toward the end of September for our area, much later than in the rest of the province, but only because we were starting to get heavy dew at night, higher humidity, and cooler temperatures. Even then the woods are so dry that it would take nothing for a fire to take off and an open burning ban has been extended to the end of October for us, with good reason.
I dug another gate post hole down four feet out at the entrance to our property the other day because the wooden post I put in this spring is splitting already. We’ve replaced it with a big metal I beam in cement. The hole was dry all the way down and I’m certain that had I dug another two feet, it would still have been dry. Andy has noticed the same thing when using his Bobcat on jobs this year. Everything is just powdered dust.
We had a lot of aspen leaves turn brown along the swampy meadows by August this year and I figured we would get no color at all this fall. But since it just happened to aspens and buck brush near the swamps, I think it must be because their roots were so shallow. They were always near damp ground and so never had to go deep for water. As a result, when the meadows dried up, the roots couldn't grow fast enough to keep the leaves green. Everywhere else, though, the leaf color this fall has been absolutely astounding and has lasted for at least a month or longer. We’ve had peaches, golds and oranges, every shade of red and of course the bright yellow of the aspens. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a year this good for color so maybe having a long, hot, dry summer causes it. Surprisingly, we still have a lot of bushes and even a few aspen that still have green leaves so I don’t know what will happen with them. It may extend this year’s color or they just may go into winter green.
About six weeks ago I drove a stake into the rocks at the edge of the water on our shore line in front of the house. The lake at that point was the lowest anyone has ever seen it and there has been no water flowing out of the Dean River for months now. The lake level is about a foot out from the stake now so the water has continued to drop and will unless we get some moisture and then some melt up in the mountains.
Amazingly, even as warm as it has been this year, there has been very little algae growth on the lake and then only in the last couple of weeks. I think that is because of the lack of nutrients going into the water. Without rain to wash stuff off the shores into the water, or streams bringing anything in, there is nothing to feed the algae. I think that the same has caused the fish to be hard striking and hungry all this summer and fall. The fishing has been absolutely amazing all year, with most people limiting out within an hour or two every day even in the middle of July and August. But there has been very little bug hatch, no mosquitoes, and no goodies washing into the lake so they have been very hungry and willing to go after just about anything. The trout aren’t as big and fat as they usually get this time of year but there’s lots of them!
We haven’t gotten any of the thunderstorms that we normally would get building throughout a hot summer this year. I think it’s because there just hasn’t been enough moisture anywhere to build a storm. I think I only heard thunder a couple of times and then the storms would move off inland. As a result, we had very few lightning strikes or forest fires in the Chilcotin this year, with only one good sized one at Alexis Creek later in the summer that closed the highway for a day or two. And I’m not sure that wasn’t human caused since it started along the highway. We were, however, tormented by smoke from the Chelaslie fire to the north of us for many weeks off and on through the summer. That fire at last reckoning was apparently nearly 300,000 acres. Fortunately, they finally got rain in that area and it seemed to damp it down a bit, at least enough to clear our air out.
The biggest blessing this summer was THE LACK OF MOSQUITOES!!!
Man, was that nice! It was so unbelievable and so pleasant, that every evening I could go for a walk, every evening that we could sit around the fire and not see a single bug, was a surprise. How I would love to see every summer be like that! As a result, I got a lot more accomplished this year than I ever have before because I could work outside every single day, and even into the evening if I wasn’t too burned out from the heat. Even going for a walk every morning in the backwoods was possible during the summer because there very simply were no mosquitoes. Amazing! How I hope it will be the same next year and if we don’t get a big snow load this winter, it just might. Most ponds, sloughs and little lakes that have been full of water since the beetle kill hit have finally dried up. There are still a few around that haven’t that didn’t exist six years ago, but most has, and it’s knocked out a lot of mosquito habitat. I hope….
Lack of mosquitoes meant I could get my big projects done this summer without having to plan when to be in shade or sun at certain times of the day based on how buggy it would be. And I wore shorts all summer. Me. I haven't been able to wear shorts since I hit this country 12 years ago because of the bugs except for April before last staining the cabin when there was a warm spell and the mosquitoes hadn’t arrived yet. I was a little hesitant for the first couple of months of the summer just because bugginess is so ingrained, but when they still hadn’t arrived in August I dragged out a pair of old jeans and cut them off for shorts. I forgot how nice and cool they were, the same with wearing T shirts with the sleeves cut off. Normally you’re stuck with long sleeves and long pants until well into fall in this country. And I didn’t have to be slathered in bug dope all summer either, which my skin very much appreciated. All in all, it was a wonderful summer and made me fall in love with the country all over again.
Aside from a lot of mini projects, my major one to get accomplished this summer was to get my perennial garden moved out of the place that we were going to build the new outdoor room. However, that wasn’t all that easy in view of the heat because perennials aren’t partial to being moved in 27C or 75 to 85 degree weather with a hot sun glaring down every day. But it still had to be done and it didn’t look like the weather was going to back off so day after day I would dig up a few plants, take them over to my new perennial garden area, try to dig a hole in hardpan and a mass of roots big enough to accept each newly homeless plant, get some decent bagged soil tamped in around it, and water it in. Then I would have to build and erect a little shelter over each that would block out the sun the next couple of weeks until the plant had settled in. The whole area was pretty pathetic looking for about three months until the weather cooled down and I could remove all the shelters.
Sadly, I ended up moving my double flowering plum on the hottest day at 33C or 91F and I don’t think it made it. It only took about three days for the leaves to curl up and turn brown in the heat. It’s too bad because it was a beautiful plant covered in masses of pink blooms every spring, and I had been babying it for eleven years. I might have lost a few other plants but I won’t be sure until next year when they should start to come up again from the root. I kept water misting over the whole area a good part of the summer to try to keep it a little cooler in the new perennial area but I don’t know if it helped.
Things were finally getting down to the wire at one point and I got Andy to use his Bobcat to move some of the larger perennials with huge root balls in the hope that they would have a better survival rate. I think they might be in a little better shape.
Once we got the perennials cleared out of their old garden, Andy leveled it and then dug the holes for the footings and columns for the new outdoor room. It took us a few days to get those level, squared and poured by hand and the saddles set in but we were finally ready for the structure to be built.
My guest cabin was full right into the third weekend of September when I finally had an opening so I could put up the two fellows from Bella Coola. They had cut my timbers for me and were going to help erect them on site here. They asked for some skilled muscle and I’m really lucky because we have several friends and neighbours that fit the bill that were willing to come over and help over the weekend with sanding, routering, cutting and raising the timbers in place. Since this outdoor room is two stories tall and the beams were seven by seven Douglas Fir up to 16 feet long, we needed all the muscle we could get. The final ridge beam went on by 3:30 on Sunday afternoon and the structure was as far along as it was going to be this year and looked beautiful!
I was afraid we would run out of good weather this fall so I didn’t get the materials to put the roof on. We just painted the floor and stained the beams with their first coat of Sikkens to protect the structure from winter weather and then we’ll start work on it again in the spring. Once the floor that was level with our deck was on I could step out into the building and see that it actually has a pretty darned nice view. It’s going to be a great place to host dinners without having to worry about weather or bugs once it’s done.
A project this size took up a good part of the summer in the planning and building process, so a couple of other things didn’t get done, but I’m pretty pleased with all we got accomplished this year. And that on top of running a full B&B this summer and fall. I’m just really glad I didn’t put in a vegetable garden this year. Keeping existing perennial gardens weeded and watered, and the lawns watered and cut, was about all the time I had for green stuff besides moving a bunch of plants. And I definitely didn’t have time to have a full greenhouse. However, since it looks like the cost of vegetables is going up this year because of the California drought, I expect I’ll have a full garden in next year.
The adult loons in our back bay did a fine job of raising both their babies to full size this year and are now long gone leaving the youngsters to bulk up and learn how to fly on their own. It looks like one baby grew to full size in the front bay as well but our neighbours have two adults with a new baby in front of their place now. They saw the parents trying to defend the little one from a Bald Eagle only just a couple of weeks ago and couldn't believe that there would be a baby that small on the lake. The female must have had a second hatch or a very late hatch but there is no way it will grow big enough fast enough to leave the lake before freeze up. I just hope they know when to leave it behind so they don’t end up frozen in as well. The best thing that could happen to all of them is for the eagle to get the little one but the adults are pretty protective.
We didn’t have quite as many eagles around this year and I’m glad to see it. The loon babies have a lot better chance making it to size and getting off the lake before winter hits.
We still have an ever increasing white tail and mule deer herd here that come onto the property periodically. I think that we may have to investigate the cost of deer fencing to keep them out. They have decimated a neighbour’s vegetable and flower garden down the road this summer and I have no intention of giving them the same benefit here. At least our existing fence and gate we put up this spring has kept the horses out and from destroying the yard, lawn and gardens as they have other places.
I got my network IP camera for my birthday this year as requested and after finally finding someone that could help me get it up and working, I’ve found that it’s probably the wrong camera. I really wanted a camera that would upload a photo every few minutes to this website so that part time residents could see Nimpo Lake throughout the year, much like the highway cam I have on there now.
I asked for a specific camera from Hikvision sold at Nelly’s Security in the States because I wanted an American manufactured camera. The salesman assured me that it would do exactly what I described to him. I’ve since been in email contact for weeks with their tech guy who says it will not upload an image with the same name to the Internet and that none of their cameras have that capability. And since it has been over 30 days and the camera has been used, (on my desk, not in the weather in an attempt to get it to work.) too bad, so sad, they won’t take the camera back, even though it’s pretty apparent that the salesman lied to me about the capability of the camera in order to make the sale. So I’m now stuck with a camera that I cannot make work for my purpose and unless I can find some software, some script that I understand, or help to get this thing to upload images under one name so that my server doesn’t get overloaded, it’s useless to me. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know. In the meanwhile, I suggest you not buy a Hikvision camera from Nelly’s Security. I’m disappointed beyond belief, especially since it would have been such a gorgeous summer and fall to have photos of the lake for you folks.
We attended a celebration of life for John Laurens yesterday at the Nimpo Lake Hall after his death this past Monday from a massive heart attack. Known by most of us as Oscar, the trash can muppet on Sesame Street, because of his grumpy nature, he was probably one of the largest contributors to our community over the years in terms of helping at events, etc. and had a heart of gold. I was delighted to see nearly every person in Nimpo Lake there and Anahim Lake was well represented as well. It was good for his daughter and granddaughter, who had arrived from Saskatchewan, to see that he was highly thought of in this community. We’re going to miss him a lot.

The last blog is at July 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!
A timber frame structure next to the house.
A young loon challenges all comers while protecting his brother.
Neighbours in kayaks near our shore.
A yellow and blue sea kayak ply the calm waters of Nimpo Lake in autumn.
The various colors of autumn on trees near the flags.
Bright red buckbrush is reflected in water along the shores of Nimpo Lake.
Mountain, lake, and red brush reflect in the water.
Button leading to The Chilcotin Facebook Page.
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