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Wilderness Adventures - Sept. 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.

21/09/2006 11:53 AM

The Mountain Man

Our American Traveler, Ann, made the comment in her email - "We tend to think of "pioneer life" as something that ended 100 years ago, but in the Chilcotin it seems to have been so much more recent." No truer words were spoken. Many of the people in this country still live the pioneer life as depicted in the movies and really think nothing of it. The conveniences they may do without are easily offset by the lifestyle they have either chosen, or were born into here.
I think that I mentioned before that when my family moved from the States in '66 and I was only a child, they had planned on purchasing a ranch north of Anahim Lake. The summer had been so wet that they were unable to negotiate the many miles of goat trail required to get into the ranch and eventually settled in the 'boonies' north of Williams Lake.
When I had the opportunity to work at the mill just being constructed out here in 1988, I jumped at it and trust me, the 'pioneering' spirit was still alive and well.
I had a unique experience that was my first introduction to the Chilcotin as an adult that I will never forget. It was only shortly after I arrived in Anahim Lake and it was Stampede weekend where rodeo riders from all over show up to test their skills at bull riding, bronc riding, barrel racing and more. The tiny community was teeming with tourists, rodeo riders, locals kids galloping the streets on Indian ponies while Natives from Reserves from miles away sat in front of the stores gossiping and catching up on family news, and local ranchers and outfitters made the long trip in from their meadows to pick up supplies and watch the Stampede.
Suddenly, from down the street you could hear the clatter of hooves and into sight rode this 'Mountain Man', larger than life. The rider was a big man anyway but he wore this huge fur coat made of either moose or bear hide that was so long it covered his boots in the stirrups and hung over the flanks of his horse. He had a big bushy beard and a beat up hat pulled low over his eyes with a rifle in a scabbard and big bedroll tied on his horse. Behind him he pulled a long string of packhorses at a lope loaded down with huge packs of furs bundled with ropes. Everyone scattered as he pulled up in front of Darcy Christiansen's General Store where presumably he was going to sell his furs since Darcy was a fur buyer. I lost sight of him then since I happened to be driving down the street when I first saw him and nearly drove off the road rubbernecking.
Later that evening I stood rubbing shoulders in the local pub which was so packed with people it was standing room only, when I looked over at a table with chairs crowded round it. Sitting with his back to the wall was my Mountain Man, smiling genially and talking with his companions made up of local ranchers, the unruly grey hair and beard now neatly trimmed, hat off and piercing eyes surveying the room the whole while. I watched him for awhile, and even though he looked quite 'civilized' and very friendly, you could see that he was wary and not at all comfortable with all those people. You could tell he just couldn't wait to go home, wherever that was. I asked people who he was and although I was told his name, being new to the area it meant nothing to me. Apparently he came in out of the bush only once or twice a year at most, to sell furs he trapped and return home with the food and supplies he would need for the year. Probably what sticks in my mind the most that night was that the man was sitting beneath a print hanging on the wall next to the huge grizzly hide and the picture was also of a mountian man from a long time ago. I don't think the man took his seat because of the picture but because he could watch the comings and goings with his back to the wall. But I couldn't stop comparing his tough weathered face with that of the grizzled old warrior in the picture. The two could have been brothers.
To this day, I don't know who the 'Mountain Man' was and I never saw him again. But that image in my mind will always be there and formed my opinion of the West Chilcotin then and there. I was never leaving!

19/09/2006 7:55 PM

An American Traveler in The Chilcotin

I am truly one of the most fortunate people when it comes to hearing feedback to this blog and it's in that fashion that I met a terrific person who, with her husband, travelled through the West Chilcotin this summer. Her description of the trip was so interesting and so fresh to me that I asked if I could share it with you folks. So it's with great appreciation that I introduce Ann Knight to you and I really hope you enjoy her travellogue as much as I did! I think I might thin out the pictures on the right a bit so I can add some of Ann's great images as well.
We had an absolutely wonderful trip to British Columbia and seeing the Chilcotin was a very special part of the trip! It is an incredibly beautiful area, so vast and unspoiled and I think about it every day, wishing and hoping to come back. It all started with a fantastic day on the ferry from Port Hardy to Bella Coola. It was July 1st - Canada Day - and the captain and crew of the Spirit of Chiliwack went out of their way to make it a fun and festive day for the whole group. There were relatively few passengers and by the end of the day we were like one happy family! As we headed up the Inside Passage we saw several groups of humpback whales! It was hot and sunny and we had a yummy salmon BBQ dinner on the deck as we headed up the Bentnick Arm to Bella Coola.
The scenery was spectacular and kept getting better and better with every mile. We pulled into Bella Coola about 8:30pm as the Captain led us with a rousing "O Canada" and the snow capped mountains sparkled like jewels all around us. We spent two days exploring the beautiful Bella Coola valley. We went to the little farmers market and met some nice local folks and also stopped in at virtually every shop or store in the valley. Everyone was just so nice and friendly. And we were so lucky with the hot sunny weather and clear skies.
The mountains were spectacular so as we drove we kept stopping for more pictures. We hiked up to the petroglyphs, had a picnic lunch at Clayton Falls and watched the bald eagles in the harbor and estuary. After leaving Hagensborg we drove up the valley and spent the night at the Atnarko Campground and visited the Tweedsmuir Lodge. The next day we started "up the hill". What a drive! All the way up we kept stopping for pictures - where it was wide enough to be safe. Just over the pass we started off on a hike to the Rainbow Range, but the mosquitoes were just too nasty so we only went a mile or so.
We stopped at Christensen's Store in Anahim Lake and the lady there told us about a local "must see" called "The Precipice". So we drove out to see this deep gorge cut into what looked like volcanic rock, with a waterfall and a pool down at the bottom. It was about 18km out of town, southwest I think. On the way back to town it was getting late so we decided to pull off the road near a pretty lake and meadow and just camp "off the beaten path". We hadn't seen another car for miles, or any houses or buildings or anything so we figured it would be ok. There was a track of sorts out into the meadow, so we were well off the road. We were self-contained in our little RV and it was a wonderful night! The view from our "dining room" was a postcard - the meadow and lake with the spectacular Coast Range in the distance. I've never been as "out in the middle of nowhere" as that - and it was great! The only bad part was the mosquitoes, so we had to stay inside!
As we'd traveled over the pass the day before we'd noticed a large smoke cloud way off in the distance to the north. When we were at Christensen's Store the lady said there was a fire caused by lightening but it was at least a day away. The cloud, however, continued to grow all day. So when we woke up the next morning in our remote campsite, the whole sky had turned to smoke. The Coast Range wasn't even visible anymore. We drove back into town and they said it was coming to Anahim Lake. This would have been July 5th. So we decided to head down the highway towards Williams Lake. I wanted to stop at Nimpo Lake but it was so smoky it was hard on the lungs. The smoke got better as we drove on, but it didn't really clear until we were almost to Williams Lake. We heard all sorts of rumors later that Anahim Lake had been evacuated and/or burned, but I learned later that things were ok. I could certainly see why fire is such a worry in the area with all the pine bark beetle trees. We have a small pine bark beetle problem where we live near Yosemite and fire is a big worry here as well.
One of the many highlights of the drive through the Chilcotin was seeing a moose! He was just sauntering across the road just past the HalfWay Ranch! I managed to get a couple of photos as he slowly crossed the road. We didn't see any bears in the Chilcotin, but we did see 7 in all during the rest of our BC trip - no grizzles, and no close encounters, but exciting none the less! We did take your advice and bought some bear spray and carried it with us whenever we were hiking. One helpful thing for folks flying in from the US: buy the bear spray in Canada and then (if you don't end up using it), you can ship it back home via UPS Ground. It worked out fine and was cheap insurance.
Before our trip I had read Diana French's book "The Road Runs West: A Century Along the Chilcotin Highway" and had found it very interesting to read about the people and characters who'd settled in the Chilcotin. So there were some special discoveries on our trip because of this: all the old hats on the wall in the Post Office at Anahim Lake belonging to so many of the old timers whose lives and stories I'd read about, and finding Harold Stuart's old place at Redstone. I know we weren't supposed to, but we did wander around the old store and shop and looked at all the old "junk" that he'd left lying around. But we treated everything with the utmost respect - it was like a real life museum! He must have been quite a character! It gave me a real sense of how tough life must have been even just a few short years ago for folks in the area. We tend to think of "pioneer life" as something that ended 100 years ago, but in the Chilcotin it seems to have been so much more recent - within our own lifetime. We also stopped at the Tatla Lake School, since I have a link to their webcam and I check it almost daily to see how things look. Unfortunately the smoke was still heavy there so the mountains weren't too visible. It seemed all too soon that we were heading down Sheep Creek Hill and into "civilization" on the other side of the bridge. I just wish we'd had more time and could have spent a week or two just in the Chilcotin! Maybe next trip?
-Ann Knight
Thanks Ann. Hope you guys got to see a little of the Chilcotin from fresh eyes and enjoyed Ann's insight as much as I.
18/09/2006 10:19 PM

Anahim Lake Property For Sale

I have just listed a really pretty property with Anahim Lake waterfront on the Property for Sale page. It's a really nice home on 2.89 acres sitting right on Anahim Lake with a spectacular view of the Coastal Mountains. The home has had lots of improvements in the last five years including septic, new drilled well and a huge new deck just built this summer that overlooks the lake. With two bedrooms, loft, large living area and basement with rec. room and more, it sounds like a great home for a growing family or as a vacation house with lots of room to invite your friends.
There seems to have been a lot of interest generated lately in properties for sale on both Anahim and Nimpo Lakes which I'm glad to see. I wish good luck to everyone that has been looking lately and hope you all find exactly what you're looking for!
Well, it was another one of those 'iffy' days on the weather front. Sometimes spitting a little rain, sometimes a little thunder. Then it would clear off for a little while and you open all the doors because the house is getting too hot, then a quick change and it's cooling down. Welcome to fall I guess. I sure would like to see a little more nice weather though before winter slams down on us. The leaves are starting to turn quickly now and you can hear all these little Nimpo voices going, "No, no, not yet!!!" Well, maybe that's just my voice....lol.
I received an absolutely smashing email today from a lady that I corresponded with prior to our trip to Alaska. She and her husband travelled up to Bella Coola and the Chilcotin this summer and not only did she do a great job of describing the trip but she had some wonderful pictures. If we're lucky, she'll let me post parts of her trip here because it's so nice for folks to hear about the area from someone besides myself. Besides, if I'm tired of hearing myself go on, I'm sure you folks are too.
Anyway, I wrote two articles yesterday so I could spend all of today working so I'm keeping this short and getting back to the grindstone. Don't forget to check out the properties for sale page!

17/09/2006 8:11 PM

Fresh Snow On The Coast Mountain Range

And lots of it! Time to break out the snowmobiles! Remember Thursday's post (September Week Two) where I wondered what the mountains would look like once the rain clouds cleared away? Well guess what? There's a lot of snow up there!
My brother-in-law went flying on Saturday with a friend once he finished wiring the house for Wi-Fi. I asked him how much snow it looked like was on the ground up in the mountains and he said there was quite a bit, even through Goat Pass where we snowmobile in the winter. It certainly looked like lots from down here. Nothing like the thin dusting of the day before, this was a pretty solid looking blanket of white. The picture on the right, taken this evening, doesn't do the snowfall justice because a warm wind blew in last night and it looks like it's taken the snow down a bit.
This weather is a bit extreme and early for the area. We often see snow up in the mountains by the middle of September. We just usually don't see it down here in Nimpo or Anahim until a little later in the fall. It will no doubt warm up and maybe we'll have a long, warm Indian Summer. If the snow melts in the mountains and it rains a little more, it might bring up the river and lake levels a bit. I guess the main salmon run on the Atnarko and Bella Coola Rivers is late because of low water levels and high water temperatures and that's just not conducive to spawning.
Aside from taking what he called a very enjoyable flight, my brother-in-law, Dick, went fishing yesterday and caught an absolute beauty of a rainbow trout. He and my partner both did very well in the couple of hours that they spent out on Nimpo Lake even after losing some fish. And me...sob...I had work to catch up on. (Do you feel sorry for me yet?) Besides, I'm holding out for better weather.
Nimpo Lake is the absolute best for autumn fishing. The fish are big, fat, and hungry. Their mouths start firming up so you're less likely to lose them and some of them can get into a pretty frisky battle with your line. There are few bugs landing on the water so the rainbows are more likely to take your lure or fly in an attempt to fatten up before freeze up.
Amazingly, the weather cleared up for awhile yesterday and it looked like being out on the lake was actually fun. Unlike today or the day before yesterday when all you saw were heavily dressed fishermen humped up in their boats determined to finish out their vacation, fishing to the last. From now until freeze up will be the best fishing of the season and everyone knows it.
You'll have noticed that I posted more bear pictures. These are not as good a quality as the ones posted last week but are still of the same two grizzlies that Leah ran into on the Atnarko River in the Bella Coola Valley. Even though the images are not quite as clear, the grizzly bear is such an interesting creature that I couldn't resist putting in more of the pictures. Some were posted on the Picture of the Day but since that's only up for a day, only a few people get to see them. I hope you all enjoy these images and if you want to see how really close that girl got to these grizzlies, check out last week's blog!

17/09/2006 3:59 PM

Satellite Internet Versus Slow Dial Up In The West Chilcotin.

Now where shall I start...how about with SPEED!! First, my apologies to those of you that checked back for a new article this weekend. It was a little impossible to write because I couldn't get into my office.
My brother-in-law, Dick, is a whiz when it comes to computers and networking and we were lucky to have him come visiting with his handy, dandy computer tools and goodies. He arrived in Nimpo Lake Thursday afternoon and immediately went to work. However, it meant I couldn't access my computers or office until yesterday and I had work stacked up by then.
We recently purchased a satellite Internet hookup but could only get one computer working at highspeed directly off of the satellite modem. The router didn't work properly so that meant my two computers and laptop were still running at about 38kbps maximum dial up speed. Imagine my excitement when Dick got all of my computers working successfully at highspeed and then set up a wireless router for my laptop. Now, I can go anywhere and use my laptop without having to plug in. In fact, Dick emailed me last night from his laptop down at the cabin and had a good signal even at that distance.
After Dick hard wired the entire house with category 6 wire (The highest most places go is 5 and as he stated this is probably only the second private residence in British Columbia with this capability besides his own house.) he networked all of my computers and printers so that I can now transfer information between computers at 1000Mbps. Also known as the speed of light...lol. Am I happy? Absolutely! I cannot wait to call my telephone and Internet provider to cancel that phone line. After they expressly told me that they were not interested in dialup customers because that is not where they are investing their time or money, I have been waiting for that 'warm, fuzzy feeling' I am going to get when I cancel my line. Hey, it's only $60 a month, but if you keep adding up unhappy customers such as myself because customer service is not your priority, it starts adding up to a significant amount of money.
As Nimpo Lake and Anahim Lake move into the future, more and more residents will gradually get high speed Internet. We are supposed to get Wi-Fi in Anahim Lake by late winter and in Nimpo Lake by midsummer of next year provided by a business in Williams Lake that received a grant from the government. Unfortunately, our service from Telus was just so poor and impeding my computer business so badly that we just felt we couldn't wait another year.
At this point in time, there are only two businesses and one residence on Nimpo Lake with highspeed Wi-Fi and we are one of them. The other is Nimpo Lake Resort where campers can set up their laptops and log onto the network down there. It's a nice treat when vacationing out in the boondocks where we don't even have cell service! Of course the Country Inn up in Nimpo also has satellite Internet which is particularly convenient for people that come here on business.
For last week's articles, and some awesome, close encounter grizzly bear pictures, check out September Week Two .
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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!
Young moose crossing highway.
 
Green valley.
 
Fresh fall snow.
 
Man with fish.
 
Bear with nose in the water.
 
Bear walking along river shore.
 
Bear looking out over the water.
 
Bear standing in water.
 
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