Tag Archives: Anahim Lake

Anahim Lake, West Chilcotin

A Little Snow

harry the mutt

 

2 trailIn the swamp, it was hardly visible at all.

winter willowsI had to go to Bella Coola again to see the surgeon who gave me a new knee.  He comes up from Vancouver twice a year. Neither he nor the physiotherapist can explain why the knee is still swollen and painful, making it difficult to go down stairs – in the best case scenario, everything should be fine in 3 months – it is now 7 months since the operation.

All my other medical trips have been during the long days of spring and summer.  Snow was forecast on the Chilcotin and rain in the valley.  These are potentially the worst conditions as somewhere down the Bella Coola Hill the temperature changes from below to above freezing, and that can create a terribly slick surface.  The nearest Chilcotin weather station is nearly 100 km east of where I live, and the one in Bella Coola is almost the same distance west, and in a totally different climate.  There is no way of finding out what is going on down The Hill.

I once wrote a chapter in a book: How To Make Life Difficult For Yourself Without Really Trying.  The theme was that if you think of everything that can possibly go wrong, you are prepared for it.  So I carried: chains and bungie cords; axe; chainsaw; come-along and ropes; shovel; food; matches and candles; and dirty old clothes in case I had to crawl under the vehicle. Although I could manage the 6-hours driving, the appointment, and the shopping in one day if the weather cooperated, I had to be prepared to stay the night as the surgeon was flying in that morning.  Often the Bella Coola Valley is socked in during winter conditions, and the plane flies only to Anahim, after which passengers are bussed down The Hill, which adds 2 hours to their travel time – and the plane is often late, even in perfect weather.  So I also carried sleeping bag, dog food, and spare clothes.

The sun rose shortly after I left home.

sunrise Highway 20Some parts were foggy…

for on Highway 20But The Hill was clear.

Highway 20, Bella Coola HillAnd there was even a bit of feeble sun now and then.

highway 20Highway 20 had been well sanded and the transition from freeze to thaw was easy.  Soon I was driving in mud.

mud on The HillAt the bottom of The Hill, there was no snow at all.  Everything dripped with moisture.

snowberries at Stuix

 

10.  Mushrooms and mossThe scent of fall cedar forest was overwhelming.

11. mushroomsMy appointment was for 1.00pm.  The plane was only about half an hour late and the surgeon missed lunch and saw me at 1.15.  Three hours later, I was headed back up The Hill

Highway 20 Bella Coola HillThe sun set about an hour before I arrived home.  But everything had gone smoothly – all my preparations had been for nothing.

Highway 20, Chilcotin

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A Run to Anahim Lake

The road was ploughed just in time.  I was down to my last handful of dogfood; also, I was just about out of drinking water.  The well supply is too salty and sulphury for plain drinking so I bought a reverse osmosis filter, but things never happen fast on the Chilcotin so it is not hooked up yet.  Lack of drinking water is not too serious now as there is enough snow to shovel and melt, but it is certainly easier to collect it in cans.

It was another -30C morning so I had to wait a little for my van to warm up (it is not possible to plug it in on a solar power system unless I run the generator, and that would have had to be brought in to warm up first…..)

A trip anywhere means you do half a dozen different things.  As well as water and dogfood, I wanted to pick up mail and go to the dump.  At the dump there were three bald eagles in attendance; two adults in full plumage,

mature bald eagle

And one very large immature (must have been a female as they are bigger than males.)

immature bald eagle

The Chilcotin is famous for its fences.  Here are three examples that don’t need posts.  The Russel fence is common across Canada.  It is supported on tripods, and both the tripods and rails are tied together with wire.

russel fence

A very common one is the snake fence.  It is the easiest to build but takes more trees and uses more space.  Sometimes the top rail is wired.  It can easily be taken apart to drive livestock through – that was both an advantage and disadvantage; when cattle drives were common, people would “borrow” grazing for the night when they were passing through.

snake fence

The third type is known as horse and rider and I believe it was invented on the Chilcotin.  It generally uses thinner poles.

horse and rider

I never buy factory meat or eggs.  So I called in at a friends.’  His place is a bit rough and ready but it is very “Chilcotin”.  But the important thing as far as I am concerned is that his chickens are very happy.

egg farmer

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The Mud Saga Continues.

After being hauled out of the boghole, the truck had been sitting for a few days before I drove it.  I was going to take Wolf, the wwoofer, to Anahim Lake so he could hitch hike to Bella Coola.  I noticed nothing on the bush road, but as soon as I speeded up on the highway, there was an alarming vibration and soon the steering wheel was juddering dramatically.

Wolf and I got onto our hands and knees on the road and looked underneath.  There was a lot of dried mud caked around the join of the wheel and axle.  Maybe if we could shift it…..  But this proved to be an enormous job.  Firstly, it was jammed in behind various bits of truck, and secondly, we had no adequate tools.  The shovels were too big – a knife blade too small.  After 20 minutes of hacking, I heard a car and jumped up to flag it down.  The driver kindly gave Wolf his ride to Anahim Lake, and I continued with trying to loosen the mud.  I had to work at it one crumb at a time.  I was reminded of stories of prisoners who broke out of their jails using their finger nails to scrape away the mortar.  Who would have thought such soft sloppy silt would dry so hard?  Finally I loosened the last piece and it was with great relief that I found the truck was now performing normally.  When I had driven through the bog before, I always had a large puddle on the far side and that must have washed the mud off.  Because the truck was hauled out of the hole and driven no where, the mud had not been dislodged.

I did not want to risk trying to drive through the boghole again, so every time I wanted to go anywhere I had to walk the hour along the bush road to the truck, and walk the hour back again after my trip.  However, after about a week, the part of the boghole closest to my house was starting to dry out and I figured I could get through.

The other part, where I had got stuck, was still pretty bad, though.

Water was continuously seeping in from the bank on the left.  I dug a small trench to try and keep the worst of it out of the centre of the bog.  Next to Harry (the yellow dog) was a dead pine.  I figured if I cut it and a few other bushes out, I could squeeze by the soft spots. I had backpacked a small chainsaw out to the truck.

And so I was able to finally drive the truck home.

The other chore I have been occupying myself with this last week is enlarging a window.  I have long been frustrated that I could not see the mountains when I was working at the computer.

(The picture on the laptop is part of the backyard at Nuk Tessli)

So I cleared out the office and cut the hole.

And now I have 4 panes in the window facing the mountains instead of 3.

It has made the whole room seem larger.  (This is the advantage of living in a half-built house.  You can change your mind before you finish it!)

And this is what it looks like from the outside!

Having fun on the road at Ginty Creek.

On 7th April I went to town to pick up a wwoofer.  I left home at 5.00am – it was still dark and -12C.  One km away I encountered a large, frozen puddle.

van in frozen puddle

I knew I would crash through so drove cautiously into it.  That was a mistake. When I did crash through, I was stuck.  The ice in front was up to the bumper.  There was no way I could reach underneath to find something to fasten on a rope.  Fumbling in the moonlit dark, I set up the come-along at the back.  But this time I simply could not shift the van.  The all-wheel drive is not working properly.  I have not had a chance to go to Williams Lake to get it fixed.  (And April 7th was Easter weekend so no chance of a mechanic then.)

The full moon was setting as I walked back to the house.  There are two tow-truck operators in the area – both were away for several weeks.  I phoned a friend whose husband had a lot of heavy machines – at 6.00am he was already on the road hauling hay while the frost was in the ground.  He would not be able to come until the afternoon.  But my friend phoned a neighbour.  He eventually arrived and pulled me out.  The two of them had a 40-minute drive each way to rescue me and they would take nothing for their time.

So I got to highway 20 4 hours after I left home.  I should have already been in Williams Lake by then.  But the driving was excellent and by running around like a lunatic, I got everything done and picked up the wwoofer from the bus station.  Driving home it was quite late and thawing.  I wondered how I would make out on the road.  The snow was very sloppy and I crashed through into mud, but the puddle I had problems with was soft and I made it through.

A few days later we drove to Anahim Lake to pick up another wwoofer.  The ice puddle was surprisingly dried up and only half full.  But closer to the highway the road was nothing but mud and enormous lakes of water.

puddle on the telegraph road

The only way to tackle them was to go flat out.  Even so, I almost did not make it through this one.  (My gumboots were behind the seat in case I needed them in a hurry.)

I don’t enjoy this kind of driving! Another time I slewed off the road and crashed into a tree.  The bumper is broken and there is a big scrape on the front fender.  Most years I hunker down during this season but it seems that this year I have had to drive for one reason or another  every few days.  Still, I now have an energetic work force and am getting some work done.

The first job was burning brush.  Anne from France is operating the chainsaw, Wolf from Germany is behind.

Anne operating chainsaw

Here, Sam from France is at the rear of the stretcher of brush.  He and  Wolf are clearing old debris piles from the side of the road.

wolf and sam buring

But despite persistent cloud and very unpleasant cold winds, the snow has gone fast and we have had to quit burning the big piles.  The next big job is to insulate the attic.

Anne and Sam preparing to insulate the attic

The ponds, however, are still frozen.  When proofreading the latest version of Ginty’s Ghost, I read how the ponds were both open by the middle of April in 2009.  This year, however, they are still solid.

A river of water, however, is running over the ice on the lower pond.  It is going to be another very late year.

Tomorrow I am taking the 3 wwoofers to Bella Coola for the day.  Once again I will have to launch the van along the road.  Keep tuned to see what kind of trouble I get into this time.

Gloomy Weather at Ginty Creek

The sun quit a day or two before Christmas, and it didn’t shine again until this morning.  A phenomenon of this area is to have clear, starry nights, but before the sun climbs over the hill, the overcast rolls in.  This is hard on my power system.  The long wakeful dark hours are illuminated by tiny beams of led lights, and I must ration the computer time.  In extreme cases, I must download my email, unplug the satellite internet, which uses a lot more power than the computer, write replies, then plug in the internet again.

gloom at ginty Creek

It continues to be extremely mild, and every day fresh dirty water oozes over the ice of the ponds.

flooded ice at Ginty Creek

It has also been extremely windy.  The mountains were visible on this day, and the snow is boiling off them like smoke from a forest fire.

snow blowing at Ginty Creek

On the 23rd, when I drove to Anahim Lake to meet friends for lunch, I had to cut 4 trees off my 4 km of road.  The chain saw lives in the van, now.

windfall at Ginty Creek

Yesterday we had a powdering of snow.  Just enough to cover the glazed skating rink of the yard.  My snowshoe trails are solid ice.  Walking anywhere, especially to the outhouse, would be impossible without creepers on my boots.

lodgepole pines and aspens at Ginty Creek

Then finally, this morning, we had 3 hours of good sun.  There was enough power in my batteries so that I could upload this post.  And what a difference it made to the world!

Harry and Nogwhon

That is Mt Nogwhon behind Harry.  Even the spike goldenrod seed stalks took on new life when a finger of sunshine touched them.

spike goldenrod

On top of the north bluffs, a strong snag glowed in the morning sun.

north bluff snag at Ginty Creek.

 

Tatla Lake winter craft fair.

Last Saturday I took my books to the Tatla Lake winter craft fair.  It was held in the school gym.

gym at Tatla Lake school

Most of the wares were edible.

cookies at Tatla LakeSkinner Creek farms had its usual impressive display of food. (This is only a fraction of it: they do meat products as well.)

skinner Creek farmsChristine Peters, author of “The Lure of the Chilcotin” was selling a couple of friends’ books as well as her own.  She also makes potholders.  She is demonstrating her very right-wing political affiliations.  Born in New York, she now lives in a community of population 100 or so, making potholders.

Chrikstine PetersI sold 10 books and enjoyed the socializing so thought the afternoon worth while.  I shall be doing the same thing at the Anahim Lake school next weekend.

 

Martin Weinhold

A friend told me that a German photographer, Martin Weinhold, was looking for subjects for his Workspace Canada project.  He had portrayed a number of city occupations and was interested in the kind of activities that go on in the west Chilcotin – ranchers, outfitters, pilots, general storekeepers etc.  I went round with him on his first day to introduce him to people.  It happened to be one of the three days a week that the sched flight from Vancouver arrived at the Anahim Airport, and I watched him setting up his camera.

airport at Anahim LakeHere is Martin checking Kim, the woman who runs the office, with a light metre.

checking Kim with the light metreIt was a sunny day, but with a cold wind…..

windsock at Anahim lakeWhile we waited for the plane (which was late) I amused myself with my digital snapshot camera.  I don’t think the search and rescue van has been moved for years.

search and rescue van at Anahim LakeI enjoyed these introduced weeds and their shadows on an old oil drum

oil drum at Anahim LakeThen I got close up to a dandelion

dandelion at Anahim LakeAnd next I did my big zoom thing with some foxtail barley grass.

barley grass at Anahim Lake

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Busy.

I have been incredibly busy this last week or so.  After I saw the flowers in the burn, I went down to the Precipice to pick the little wild purple gooseberries that flourish down there.  They were already past their best so if I wanted any, I had to go right away.  The last time I was at the Precipice was in the spring when I went to the Cattle Drive Party. The berries are very prickly but make excellent jelly.

wild gooseberries

This was not to be a smooth-running trip, however.  I phoned my friends, Dave and Rosemary Neads, when I was about to set off from Anahim Lake.  There are no cell phone frequencies on the Chilcotin and not usually any other traffic along the 30 km of very rough road.  Normally it would take me about an hour and a half to drive it (I must go very slowly in my low van) but I told Dave and Rosemary not to worry if I was late as I would check out other likely berry patches en route.

So when I got a flat, and found that my spare was also flat, I could not expect to be rescued in a hurry.  I was about 9 km from Dave and Rosemary’s house.  Nothing for it but to walk.  I had left Anahim early afternoon and by the time I arrived they were indeed beginning to worry.  A very welcome supper was just about to be served.

Dave and Rosemary’s original home on the property was a little cabin built by the original occupier, and that is where I usually stay.  Either the builder was lazy or he was very short as I have to duck to get under the very low ceiling beams.  Outside is a struggling apple tree (the climate is borderline for apples) that bears have trashed a number of times.  Dave has rigged up an electric fence to try and protect it.

pickup and electric fence at the PrecipiceBut, as Rosemary says, any smart bear will just climb into the truck bed and get at the apples that way…..

The most economical way in terms of time and effort to deal with my tire was for Dave to plan a gas/propane/dump run the following day.  He had other business to deal with so would be gone several hours, and he figured I might as well stay down in the valley and visit Rosemary and pick more berries.  Fortunately we were able to find a tire that fitted locally (Nimpo Lake, an extra 20 minutes east of Anahim Lake) – otherwise I would have had to wait an extra day or two while one was freighted out from Williams Lake.  On his way up the hill Dave would take the wheel off the van, pick up the spare, and take both to the garage at Nimpo Lake.  He would bring the fixed wheels back to the van, put the tire on, then drive back home, pick me up and take me back to the van.  However, when he arrived home later that afternoon, it was to say that he had met another resident of the valley who had gone out to pick up some visitors.  Dave had given the van keys with him – the visitor would drive my van back down.  But then we found that the visitors were going to be delayed until late that night.  I could have stayed over another night but I had things to do…  Fortunately I had a spare key to the van.  Dave drove me back up to it, and I was able to reach home safely.  The other keys would have to languish in Anahim Lake until I paid another visit there.  All this is typical of the logistics of a wilderness dweller.

Next was a trip to Williams Lake, something I must always do soon after I fly out of Nuk Tessli.  Sometimes I do the 3+ hour drive there, shop, and drive back in the same day, but I wanted to spend time with a friend near 100 Mile.  She lives close to the Walker Valley, a precious piece of Cariboo grassland full of ponds, which is a lovely area for birds.  I like to walk there early in the morning and watch the world come awake.

walker island grasslandsThe grasslands are wonderfully lush this year, as they are on the Chilcotin.

grasslands at Walker IslandThe rising sun is backlighting this salsify seed head.

seedhead of salsifyAnd in another area there were a number of dewy spiderswebs anchored to the grasses.

spiders webIt looks a magical place from the photographs, but houses encircle the rim and all the time you can hear the roar of traffic from Highway 97.  There is a constant threat to develop this precious piece of environment out of existence.

Voting Day

I had to drive an hour each way to the Anahim Lake Courthouse to vote.

Anahim Lake courthouseWhat you might call the Atco Revival style of architecture.

Court is held only 4 times a year.  It used to be held in a pub, but the pub closed.  Mostly drink-related crimes.  Serious offenses would be tried in Williams Lake or the Lower Mainland.  The bottom of the ramp is littered with cigarette butts where the offenders have rapid consultations with their court-appointed lawyers.

Inside, two ladies are manning the election booth.

inside the Anahim Lake Courthouse

On the way to Anahim I passed through Nimpo Lake.  Usually the ice has gone by the end of April but it looks like being one of the latest years ever.

Nimpo Lake is still frozenThe swans are trumpeters.  The two grey ones are young ones from last year.

Garbage

Although I buy foodstuffs in bulk and reuse or recycle as much as possible I am still amazed how garbage accumulates.  The plasticized linings of dog food bags; the tough, molded coverings of tools; plastic bags that are ripped beyond use.  Wilderness Dwellers do not have the luxury of garbage pickup so must deal with it themselves.

Landfill Sites

Highway 20 has half a dozen landfill sites between Williams Lake and Bella Coola; periodically I visit the one between Nimpo Lake and Anahim Lake.

Anahim Lake landfill site

Landfill Site Between Anahim Lake and Nimpo Lake

The building in the background is the Share Shed.  People leave stuff in it that might be useful for others; not much there yesterday, just a tangle of kids’ clothes and a few battered paperbacks all smelling of cigarette smoke.  But it’s always worth checking.  I got the barrel for my stove from the large metal section.  (It was apparently the fuel tank from a big truck.)  Some locals refer to the place as the Anahim Lake Mall.

The pit for household garbage is behind the shed.  This area is enclosed by an electric fence to keep out bears.

electric fence at the Anahim Lake landfill site

Fence to keep bears from the dump

I can’t imagine anyone ever using the gate.  The dump is quite a distance from any habitation; surely no one would lug their garbage there on their back!

As I drove to the pit, about a hundred ravens flew off.  Their black shapes are very dramatic against the white snow.  I try every time I go to get a picture of this but have never managed it.

The eagles are the other scavengers.  They are less shy and they hang about on the trees close by.

Bald eagle at the Anahim Lake landfill site

Bald Eagle at the Landfill Site