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Wilderness Adventures - Oct. Week 3/2006

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.

31/10/2006 12:58 PM

Happy Last Day Of October Everyone

I guess that means Happy Halloween as well. Not a whole lot happening here today. It's still cold of course. It was -10C when I got up this morning but trust me, that wasn't early. It was -16C or about 4F when I went to bed last night so it would have gotten much colder at dawn. There's definitely frost on the pumpkin! Literally. As usual, the trick or treaters are going to have to bundle up tonite. In the Chilcotin that means designing your costume for warmth. One friend of ours told me that she's going as a whoopee cushion. That sounds rather nice and cozy doesn't it?
Last night the mist started rising off of Nimpo Lake and the moon shone eerily through it. It was dead silent and I could hear the Trumpeter Swans talking out on the lake. I'm sure there were northern lights last night but with the mist, it was impossible to see.
Today I've been watching the black headed ducks fly in. They come in like fighter jets on their side and land like professional pilots, creating hardly a ripple in the water. They have to be the smoothest ducks of any and they always look like they're dressed in tuxes for a party with their clean black and white coloring. I haven't heard any loons for a while so I guess they're gone. I miss them even more than the floatplanes over winter. But then that's what I like about the Chilcotin. Every season is drastically different.
I noticed when I went out yesterday that where the Dean River exits from Nimpo Lake it was frozen over like thin glass on both sides of the bridge and we've got ice over in the little bay next us. There's high haze today and it looks like a system is moving in from over the mountains so hopefully it will warm up a bit. It's funny, but we all comment on how unusual the weather is when it blows in this early. But really, it's not. I can remember when I was a kid in the Cariboo, you would often have a blisteringly hot October, and right around Halloween, it would dump snow and turn cold.
We were never allowed to go trick or treating, mainly because we lived too far from town. Every year we had to go to my parents' friend's place where he usually planned a bonfire. Invariably it would drop a couple feet of snow and you would stand around the fire for as long as you could stand cold feet until you were forced inside with all of the 'boring' adults. The friend would set off fireworks but it was usually so cold you watched from inside the house and then it was, "Okay, we've seen it. Can we go home now?"
But I remember one year when we had glorious weather leading up to Halloween. We were so thrilled we could have peed ourselves because my parents were finally going to allow us to have our own Halloween party outside with a bonfire, hot chocolate and treats and we could invite friends from the tiny community a couple of miles away. Oh, we were some excited, let me tell you. We gathered wood for days, and all of us baked and dipped apples, made caramel corn, cut logs for seating. This was a once in a lifetime thing for us and it was going to be a party to remember, especially since the weather was so beautiful. The night before Halloween it dumped about two feet of snow and then the mercury plummeted. Cancelled party. You would not believe the disappointment. Sad to say, I've never been real thrilled with Halloween since. And yet the newscasters say that Canadians spend huge amounts of money on Halloween and only slightly less than what they spend at Christmas. I wonder if there's such a thing as a Halloween grinch? That would probably be me.
Kind of feels like Christmas instead. Our Christmas lights are on now. I know, it's not even November yet, but that's my way of fighting back against the commercials touting Christmas that we've been seeing on TV for two weeks now. If you can't beat them, then beat the folks over at Anahim Lake. One couple there gets their Christmas lights turned on by the first of November. You can just hear those old generators over at Anahim that provide our electricity draw down with the grunt.
I've got to get back to work. Happy trick or treating everyone and have a safe Halloween!!

30/10/2006 2:49 PM

Winter's Fury

Hi Folks. I realize it's been nearly a week since I last posted an article but I had some deadlines to meet.
Winter has hit here with some serious fury. We got a little snow earlier last week that melted. Friday night it started raining and dropped nearly an inch. On Saturday night the rain turned into the biggest snowflakes you have ever seen! It was as though someone tore up some tissue into silver dollar sized pieces and started dropping them. They were so big that they just floated slowly to the ground and it wasn't just us that saw them. Quite a few people commented on the size of the snowflakes, especially those that had to drive through it. We got somewhere between four and five inches that settled to a little less than three inches of snow by the next day.
Northern British Columbia made out a lot worse than we did with Smithers receiving about three feet of snow that virtually shut the city down. To the south, the Vancouver area had high winds that knocked out power to about 24,000 homes. Actually, the electricity was out all over the province and there were numerous accidents on the highways because of ice. We actually got off pretty lucky with no power outages. Unusual since we got freezing rain before the snow hit. It took a while for us to get our truck doors open yesterday because they were frozen shut.
A cold front moved in yesterday and we watched the mercury plummet last night. We registered -18C or 0F here but up on the highway at Nimpo where you are away from the warming influence of the lake, it was -22C or about 5 below Fahrenheit at 4:30 this morning. That's pretty chilly for this time of year, even in the Chilcotin. The one side benefit may be that it kills the mountain pine beetle larvae in the smaller trees.
Eight Trumpeter Swans came ratcheting in this afternoon and landed on Nimpo Lake. They'll be heading down to their wintering grounds at Lonesome Lake I expect, provided John Edwards is still feeding them.
I've got a poor, lonely, redwinged blackbird at the birdfeeder today. He doesn't have much of a wing bar so he may be an immature, and I don't know what the heck he's still doing in the country. He should have left with his flock long ago and according to my bird book, they definitely don't overwinter here. If it were earlier in the fall I would shut off the seed to encourage him to head south, but I think it's too late now. If he hasn't gone by now, he probably won't and I'm afraid he won't make it through the winter.
I think most of us around here were ready to see winter. I don't mind seeing snow on the ground. Most everything that needed to be picked up or covered up was. A couple of the neighbours might have been caught by surprise with their docks only just getting moved. Ours is still in and we may put the boat back in if it warms up because the fishing will be great. Cold, but great. There's a bunch of ducks out on the water that must think the same. I don't know how they stand that water with it only just above freezing, but they often stay until just before freeze up. I guess that's why we all like duck and goose down in our jackets. lol.
24/10/2006 7:10 PM

The Weather Odds

What are the chances that it will snow the night before we have to drive down the 'Hill' to Bella Coola? Apparently pretty darned good. Even though it hasn't snowed for over a month! Not that snow this time of year is at all rare, the fact that we haven't had snow since the middle of September is what's unusual. But that it has to snow when we have to go down the 'Hill' does not make me appreciate Ol' Mother Nature one bit.
Last night the wind was howling, and then went dead quiet after midnight. It started raining hard but more like those needle sharp little rain drops that are almost sleet instead of the big drops you get in summer. I told myself then that sure as could be it was snowing up on Heckman Pass. Just before I banked the fire and went to bed, the wind started howling again. It was actually so bad and switching from so many directions that I had to go out and take down the big set of wind chimes that hang in front of the basement door. You could tell that there was one fast moving frontal wave after another coming in from the coast.
Most of the gravel road that comprises Highway 20 West from Anahim Lake to the top of the Hill is actually in excellent condition this year. They've been working on small sections every year straightening out corners and gravelling and it's a vast improvement over the condition of the road even four years ago.
We hit snow on top and although there was only an inch or so, the Highways guys had plowed off the top layer so some of the black of the gravel below would show through. There were a couple of short, icy sections where the snow had compacted in the shade but once we started down the Hill there was less and less snow. You don't have to drop far before you'll see the influence of that Coastal weather and temperature.
We hit some fog and the road was muddy so you feel like you're creeping through a tunnel with a wall of rock and twisted trees on one side and a long drop-off on the other as you can see in that foreboding picture up on the right.
When we hit the pavement at the bottom and started trucking through the Bella Coola Valley you could see that they're at least two to three weeks behind us climate wise. Their aspens are bright yellow but many trees, including the willows are still green.
It gets down right showy going through Hagensborg and the closer you get to Bella Coola with all the ornamental trees planted years ago. That valley is definitely a feast for the eyes, especially if you're coming down off the Chilcotin Plateau in early spring or late fall. The valley is just in a totally different climate zone and can grow plants that you won't see anywhere in this part of the country or the Cariboo. I envy those folks that but I don't envy them their wall of mountains. As fantastic as those great guardians are, they do a remarkable job of blocking out the sun to the valley in winter. Even as we drove back out of the upper end of the valley, at only shortly after 3:00 in the afternoon the sun was already dropping behind a peak. The clocks turn back this weekend and that will translate into 2:00 in the afternoon by this time next week.
There was still a little snow on the side of the road and the trees when we climbed back out on top late this afternoon, our truck covered in the slime created by gravel road, clay, calcium and melting snow. We got our kicks out of warning oncoming truckers that their pretty, white semi trucks were going to look like ours by the time they hit the pavement at the bottom of the 'Hill'.
I would have to say that like Valdez in Alaska, the Bella Coola Valley is one of those 'must see' places in the Chilcotin, or British Columbia, for that matter. And since most people don't travel in the 'dirty' seasons here, the road is usually pretty good. However, if you do travel in this direction outside of the normal 'tourist' season, just make sure you check with the Highways maintenance office right at the beginning of Highway 20 to Bella Coola for road conditions and pay attention to the warning signs.

23/10/2006 6:57 PM

Stellar Performance

From the jay that is. I saw something today that I have never seen out here before and that is a Stellar Jay. He was at the bird feeder when I first saw him and thought it was a Starling or something until I got closer because he was such a dark color. He was quite a large bird with a big, dark, gunmetal colored crest, and dark, dark smoky blue body. In fact he had to fly into the light just right before you could see what a bright blue he actually was when his wings were spread. Even then you could barely see the striping and speckling you would normally see on these birds.
The jay didn't just come to feed at the bird feeder. He raided it! Many times in fact. He'd fill his beak full as fast as he could and then fly to a nearby tree. I don't know if he was eating his bounty then or stashing it but you could literally watch the seed level drop. He won't stick around for long because I won't add any more seed to the feeder until after he leaves. Those big boys can clean you out of seed in no time and I prefer everyone migrate to wherever they're supposed to for the winter rather than rely on a birdfeeder being full all the time.
My bird book lists the Steller Jay as being a common bird in the Rockies and west but they certainly aren't common in Nimpo Lake! This is the first one I have ever seen in this part of the country and although very common to the Okanagan and considered a pest, Andy has never seen one here before either. He's sure a cocky looking bird with that big crest on his head. He looks like he just fell out of bed and forgot to run a comb through his 'fro.
We joked that perhaps the bird was pushed in on the breeze since we've had a wild and wooly wind all day. We even had whitecaps on the lake right in front of the house which is unusual. We've all commented on what a calm summer and fall it's been and since I dislike the wind, I've enjoyed it thoroughly. I haven't even had to break out the ear muffs until recently. But everyone else seems to have been missing the wind and it's true that it will freshen up the lake and mix in some much needed oxygen. The water turning over like that chills it down as well so that the lake will freeze much sooner in winter. Yay, iceroad!
This wind is widespread over much of the province so the low coming in is a big one but fast moving. Looks like we'll see a little sunshine after that. Everyone's praying for rain but I figure we'll wake up to snow one morning soon enough. Just not tomorrow, preferably since we have to make a trip down to Bella Coola. It's a great drive most of the time but the Bella Coola 'Hill' is never my favorite in nasty weather.
I'm back to work but as you'll see, I finally got around to switching to a new week, ('bout time, eh?!) so you can find last week's articles at
October Week Two.
22/10/2006 7:59 PM

The Retirement Party

We attended a retirement party for an old friend at the Anahim Lake Community Center last night.
Chuck has been working for the road service or Highways forever out in this part of the Chilcotin. He has helped every single person in this country one way or the other over the years, including myself. Evidence of that was the number of people to show up at the potluck dinner and surprise party thrown in his honor yesterday evening.
I was wondering how his wife Wendy was going to get him to come to the Hall without telling him the truth. One friend suggested she tell him that they were throwing a surprise party for his co-worker's anniversary. The ruse worked well. When Chuck and Wendy pulled up in their pickup and everyone waited inside the hall doors, I know Chuck suspected nothing. He came in the door loaded down with a big coffee pot and looked positively stunned and confused when everyone yelled, "Surprise!" It was definitely a Kodak moment.
The really unfortunate part of the whole thing is that Chuck even has to retire in the first place. He was told by the privatized Highways maintenance company that he works for that when he turned 70, he would have to retire because Workman's Compensation will not cover anyone over that age. Chuck has always liked his job, enjoys working, is willing to be called in at all hours of the day or night when bad weather hits, and needs the paycheck. He definitely did not want to retire! And really, why should he have to?
The Highways company that he works for can't find people to work for them that will move out here so they're perpetually shorthanded as it is. And yet they can't keep a guy that wants to work for them.
The province of British Columbia is notoriously short on people to fill jobs, both in skilled and unskilled labor. Right now it's estimated that there are 100,000 job openings and employers are literally walking the streets of downtown Vancouver trying to hire homeless people. Unless the predicted downturn in the US economy occurs, the problem is only going to get worse. In January of this year, the first of the 'baby boomers' turned 60 and there will be another 13 years before the last of them turn that age.
I'm sure you all realize that means a huge influx of retirees and some pretty big holes to fill in the work force. I'me not sure what the States are doing in this regard, but I think that Canada needs to change her outdated liability laws and make allowance for the older folks to work should they wish to. I think it abominable that Canada wants to loosen up the Immigration laws and allow between 100,000 to 250,000 more immigrants into the country to fill jobs, and yet they refuse to allow resident Canadians to continue working past a certain age. Like the States, we have enough issues with many new immigrants as it is. Nothing like making the problem worse!
Yesterday was an absolutely fantastic Fall day. I think we're all waiting for the shoe to drop. Today was cloudy, cool and breezy and the weather much more like what you would expect this time of year. People are still fishing Nimpo Lake, even though the water is getting really, really cool.
Well, gotta keep it short again, folks because I have to get back to work. Thank you for being patient even though articles are several days apart now. Things will get better once Fall is over!

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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!
Fog lifting.
 
Saturday night snowing.
 
Muddy road going through fog.
 
Snow on the road.
 
Autumn yellow trees.
 
Jay eating seeds.
 
Blue colored bird.
 
Outstretched wings on a bird.
 
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