Mt. Nusatsum

Mt. Nusatsum

Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Done!

I wish I could say this beautiful sunset photo was today in the Bella Coola Valley, but alas neither is it today, nor will we ever see a sunset like that in Bella Coola!  We just don't get good sunsets here -- apparently something to do with the 5-7000' mountains in the way.  I thought it was a good photo to end the year with because it was taken while we were travelling this year in another beautiful place  in our country on a different coast.  It's a good sign of how the year has ended for us, a lot better than last year and quite peaceful.  Tonight is quiet in the house as the kids have returned to their various towns that they go to school in and we are all thinking about the holiday time we enjoyed together.

Unfortunately we could have gone just one more day before a nasty Arctic outflow wind hit last night and dropped the temperature to -5 C and upped the wind speed to 30-40 km/h all day.  Oh well it's better than the 94 km/h gusts recorded at Cathedral Point down in lovely Burke Channel at 3 PM. Enjoy your New Year's Eve.  Grizzly

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Over the holidays my daughter and I went for an exploratory stroll on the Bella Coola River estuary, which is one of the top estuaries on the coast for overall importance of fish, wildlife, waterfowl and people.  It's a nice place to go in the winter when you are tired of the frozen snow covered ground further up the valley.  There were numerous ducks and the normal Trumpeter Swans enjoying the ice free conditions and food abundance that they can access in the marshy areas.  It's wintery looking for an estuary in terms of lots of rotting vegetation and not much greenery, but still a nice break.

Today brought more good weather, although there was the lightest dusting of snow in the middle valley area, just barely enough to make things look frosty, but -1 to +1 C was the order of the day again.  Grizzly

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fish Food

The photo is one of the spawned out coho salmon that the eagles were eying up pretty carefully the other day on our walk.   These fish have done their job when they were alive and now the eagles and other riverside scavengers find them pretty good and with cold weather like we have had, the carcasses that wash ashore if they are not eaten right away stay well preserved and meter out a nice source of food over the next while.  It was a nice day in the Bella Coola Valley today again with temperatures just below freezing and the sky was a little cloudy but then went to blue sky in the late afternoon. Grizzly

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stable Weather

We are well into one of those stable winter weather systems that result in rather 'boring' but very pleasant weather.  That would describe today, nothing really to talk about, cool in the morning at -5 or -6 C and slightly warmer tonight at -1 or -2 C with no wind.  The photo is in Tweedsmuir Park on the plateau side from a few years ago.  Grizzly

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Seeds Everywhere

With the weather so fine for walks (-3 or -4 C and clear) in the woods or up some of the snowed in roads, that's what we did today.  In addition to many animal tracks we observed a few bald eagles perched in trees with the bloody remains of a coho salmon on the snow below the perch. I think we are getting near the last of the 2009 coho run, so the eagles are making the best of the situation.

After so many days of wind, dry and no new snow, the seed dispersal mechanisms of the larger trees are in full swing.  Everywhere you look the Red Alder, Douglas Fir and Paper Birch tree seeds have blown and collected in low spots.  This nice little collection of seeds and seed bracts was in the foot depression of very old Grizzly Bear tracks in the snow.  I think whatever seeds don't get eaten or blown further afield into some unfriendly environment will have a good chance at starting in the spring when it comes. 

It dropped to -6 C tonight and still no wind, although  Cathedral Point down in Burke Channel has been pretty steady on the outflow wind at 50 km/h and some gusts to 60 km/h. Grizzly

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Beautiful Boxing Day

What a spectacular day in the Bella Coola Valley and the Chilcotin!  The morning broke at only a little bit below 0 C and tonight it is much the same.  Blue sky was the order of the day and light winds.  The Tweedsmuir Park area of the Western Chilcotin  ( where we spent the day with the family including the dog, X-country skiing, snow boarding and a bit of snowmobiling was really beautiful as it finally warmed up from the -20 C range it's been for weeks to just below zero and it was very pleasant.  Grizzly

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

From our home in the beautiful Bella Coola Valley of British Columbia to wherever your home is at we hope you had a very nice day with friends and family.    There are many many beautiful places in our country and in places you might be traveling to so I hope you had a chance to take time out and enjoy it today wherever you happened to be. 

It was  very peaceful day in Bella Coola, with a bit of pink sunrise sky this morning, mostly grey, but bright and only -2 C in the morning and just above freezing this evening.  A perfect day.  Grizzly

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Today was a perfect wood cutting day, with conditions that we would normally experience in later winter which make it perfect for wood cutting; frozen snow crust, just below zero and no wind.  The hard snow crust makes it very easy to get around in the woods and so that's what my son and I did today, got about half a year's supply of firewood cut.  We were in 'salvage' firewood mode, as I had several birch and alder trees fall during the heavy rains, wind and snows we have had during the fall, so they make ideal candidates to recycle into the wood pile. It's hard work, but the 'boy' is stronger than me now, so I put him to good use hefting the big Stihl chainsaw and throwing the blocks of wood closer to where we can haul them home.  Tomorrow we'll build a little appetite for that big Christmas turkey when we start splitting it - actually I'll do the piling for hauling in the spring as once my son attacks the wood with the big splitting maul it's quite a sight to see.  It's kind of a like a Whirling Dervish with a splitting maul in his hands gone mad.  I just duck and dodge while standing up blocks to keep ahead of him.  He doesn't seem to be able to stop until every last round of wood has been quartered and fallen under the mighty blows from the maul. It's gratifying to watch. I'm sure I once could have done the same.

Not much to say about the weather though, more of the same - 3 or -4 C in the morning, warming up to just below 0, cooling back down tonight and high non threatening cloudsA fine Christmas eve.  Grizzly

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

High Cloud

Not much variation today in the Bella Coola Valley weather, the morning was in the -6 C range and tonight it's anywhere from +1 C to -3 C depending where you are in the valley.  No real blue sky though, just high cloud, but all in all a pretty good day.   Spent some time at the Bella Coola Harbour today and there is a good east wind going in the inlet, but not bad in the rest of the valley. Grizzly

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter for Sure

The second day of winter dawned at anywhere between - 6 C and -13 C, depending where you live in the Bella Coola Valley.  Fortunately the east wind has been relatively benign, thus making it somewhat pleasant to get out and enjoy the clear day.  Tonight, it's in the -6 or -8 C range and more cold is forecast.
Lots of animal tracks in the fresh skiff of snow we got on Sunday - the snowpack is hard enough in the areas of the valley with a measurable snowpack (mostly east of Snootli Creek), that even the deer can walk on the top.  Wolf, Fox and Marten tracks were all abundant during a sortie around the woods today.

Today's photo is the winter version of the Devil's Club plant I mentioned yesteday, this is the business end of the plant, just to give you an idea of what the spines look like under all those beautiful summer leaves. Grizzly

Monday, December 21, 2009

Officially Winter!

It just didn't feel right putting up a wintery picture for today when we have already had 6 weeks of winter weather in the Bella Coola Valley!  This is a shot from last summer of the plant known as Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridus), the horridus part of the Latin name meaning 'frightful and rough'.  It's a challenging plant in terms of the spines on the stems and leaves which easily stick you when grabbed and leave a nice little festering spot for a few days. It's also an important plant for First Nations cultural and medicinal uses and  wildlife (Grizzlies love the fresh buds in the spring and the berries in late summer). Luckily it grows in extensive patches in many of the valleys of the Central Coast.   I've included it today to cheer you up and remind you of green times ahead.

In case you are thinking about other latitudes to be in, here's a list of places you could be in Canada today and experience more or less daylight hours.  The times are based on official sunrise/sunset calculations posted at the Environment Canada weather web page for each site and I believe they are a calculation based on a fairly flat horizon.   Sunrise in Bella Coola today was 8:35, but even with a bit of cloud cover it was light enough to see shortly after 8 AM. Enjoy winter.  Grizzly

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowy and Grey

That's the kind of day we had today.  Late last night a fine snow started and was still going this morning.  It didn't accumulate much in the lower valley, but added 5-10 cm up in the upper valley in Tweedsmuir Park.

It was a grey day  for the most part, a lot like this picture from up in Tweedsmuir Park today,  a good day for winter activities, because the temperature was only in the -1 C range down in the Bella Coola Valley and not much wind.  A good way to end fall.  Grizzly

Saturday, December 19, 2009


No rain today, that system seemed to move on through last evening, as the stars were out around 11 PM.  This morning and tonight it is in the -2 C range, and it didn't do much today other than a little bit of outflow wind tonight.  Colder up in the East Branch area, at -15 C and a few cm of new snow overnight.   The highways were a mix of bare areas, with some slippery stretches where the rain from yesterday froze.  Grizzly

Friday, December 18, 2009


Yesterday started out quite pleasant at -2 C, but then by the end of the day it finally warmed up and there was a light rain.  By this morning, it was a  more serious rain and the freezing level climbed up a fair bit.  I guess we were due for a change in weather. Tonight it is just above freezing but no rain and plus 1 or 2 C.  Grizzly

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Light Snow

A little snow developed overnight, but it didn't leave much more than a cm or two.  It snowed on and off most of the day, but it was a lazy attempt at snow. Temperature went from -4 C in the morning to -2 C tonight, although it sprinkled a few raindrops in the lower valley for a brief period today, but it wasn't a major warming trend.  Hopefully the roads stay good into the valley for the next few days, it's an important few days coming up for families traveling either into the valley or out, but hopefully everyone is safe and has good traveling. Grizzly

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


No, I am not 'fraziled' by the weather, but thought I would look at the phenomena of "frazil ice" which is evident in any of the steep, bouldery and fast moving side streams in the Bella Coola Valley where you can now see the formation of frazil ice after a number of cold days.  Streams such as the Nookliklonnik, Snootli, Thorsen, Young Creek and others are all showing a large amount of frazil right now.   Ideal conditions for forming frazil are steep and bouldery streams where water is mixed and exposed to super cold air that results in ice crystals forming in suspension in the water.  These 'frazils' of ice are carried along and because they are small can attach themselves to the bottom and start forming 'anchor ice' which contrary to what you would expect, causes the stream to freeze from the bottom up.  Other frazils drift on down stream forming the pans of ice you see in the slower sections. With prolonged cold the stream can become all ice covered and slowly overflow, carrying more frazil around.

Extended periods of frazil are hard on fish spawn because of the extensive bottom ice that can form and fish can be affected by the ice crystals in the water. Fortunately our cold spells don't tend to last all winter.  In areas that they do, frazil can lead to trouble as water slowly flows and builds up ice and then water spills out somewhere where you least expect it.

Late last night a light snow whisked around the valley, but except for the Nusatsum Bridge 'snow hole' where there was about 3 cm, the rest of the valley barely received 1 cm.  Not a bad day though with the temperature tonight in the - 6 C range.  Grizzly

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's Not Northern Alberta, but Cold Enough

-17 C is a nice winter temperature for a coastal valley with a little wind attached to it.  That was the temperature in my neck of the woods this morning and tonight it is a little windier but warmed up to -11 C.  It's a good cold spell across the west though, certainly will be a check in Alberta and Saskatchewan for the spread of the Mountain Pine Beetle. The -40 C at Puntzi Mountain  (west of Williams Lake, BC) and the Edmonton temperatures in the mid -40's are not not what those beetles like. 

Burke Channel is a beauty tonight though, -6 C and sustained winds of 90 km/h with gusts to 107 km/h - nice.  Grizzly

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cold Again!

Spoke too soon about the cold yesterday, shortly after my post last night the temperature dropped and the wind came up.  By this morning it was -9 C and tonight it is -14 C.  The outflow has been strong at times, but not with sustained high winds.   The Chilcotin was cold in the East Branch area as well,  around -24 C but a beautiful day for winter activities.  Cathedral Point in Burke Channel is gusting to 97 km/h outflow tonight -- soon it will be officially winter.  Grizzly

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Minor Snow Flurry

The morning started out with just the slightest of snow flurries, which wasn’t enough to even show up in some areas.  Again no wind until later this evening and a little outflow wind started.  Environment Canada says we are in for another Arctic outflow.     Got some outdoor machinery maintenance accomplished today and it was quite pleasant, better than the -54o C wind chill they are experiencing in the Fort McMurray, Alta area tonight.  I chatted with a relative working in that area this evening and they were limited to 10 minutes at a time outdoors today, very tough conditions.   The temperature is barely -2o C this evening in the Bella Coola Valley.  Grizzly

Friday, December 11, 2009

No Change

Today was pretty much a repeat of yesterday as far as weather, just a little warmer this afternoon and this evening.  It came above freezing for a brief while in the lower valley this afternoon.  High clouds persisted again, but no snow came forth.  Looks like a good weekend in the Bella Coola Valley for any number of possible outdoor activities. Grizzly

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Little Cloud

It was -7o C in the morning to -4o C in the evening with no wind.  There was a high cloud most of the day which looked threatening and like it wanted to snow, but nothing really materialized.  North Bentinck Arm, the inlet which terminates at the town site of Bella Coola, was flat glassy calm this afternoon, looked like a good day to try fishing for winter Chinook, but no one out there.  Grizzly

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Clear and Cold Continues

What a stretch of weather this is turning out to be!  The morning was -10 C and this evening it is back down to -12 C.  It warmed up a bit during the day, but there was virtually no wind and the blue sky made for a beautiful day.  The weather people are beginning to talk about the end of this system of weather in the next few days.  Grizzly

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Another clear cool day with only minor wind.  In the morning it was -5 C and tonight in the -8 C to -10 C range.  The snow pack update on the the Bella Coola Valley bottom is  roughly; patchy snow in the Bella Coola Townsite, less than 5 cm at the Bella Coola Airport area, 10 cm in upper Hagensborg, 15-25 cm in Nusatsum and 25-45 cm in the upper valley above Noosgulch. Grizzly

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cold Continues

Cool day of -10 C in the morning, warming up to -5 C tonight.  It was clear in the morning, but some high cloud moved down from the NE later in the afternoon and it was a little grey looking for awhile.  There was east wind, but it was sporadic and light for much of the day which made for  a pretty good day.  Grizzly

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cold and Clear

Cold and clear continues for us in the Bella Coola Valley as it does for most of the province.  So far we have gotten off lucky, the temperature has stayed in the -4 or -5 C range and the winds haven't been 'epic', although I see Cathedral Point winds peaked out at 98 kmh last evening.  A friend of mine reminded me today that in the Bella Coola Valley you have to remember to look up once in a while, and a morning like this rewards you with incredible views in any direction as illustrated by today's photo. 

Spent some time up at East Branch (in Tweedsmuir Park at the top of "The Hill"), getting organized at the ski hill for the first opening day (next Sunday).  Lots of good snow and beautiful views.  The little Roundhouse was bearing a heavy load though, and fortunately a bunch of hardy volunteers showed up at -22 C to shovel it off before it pancaked.  Looks like Tweeds is gearing up for some serious winter fun over at the cross country trails as well.  A good day was had by all.  Grizzly

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our First Major Arctic Outflow This Winter

Well the east wind is here, but not the real 'Arctic' portion of it -- yet.  It's never pleasant when it settles in, but with all the available weather forecasting at least they are rarely a surprise anymore and the forecasters are amazingly accurate on predicting their severity.  They are usually predicted well in advance and the tell tale signs of the approaching cold front when the sky clears a bit, the pressure starts climbing and the temperature starts plummeting usually confirm the weather forecasters prediction.  How much wind we feel depends on where you live in the Bella Coola Valley, but when it's really bad -- it's bad everywhere except as you get further up valley into Tweedmsuir Park, the temperature gradient between the warm coastal air and the cold interior arctic air has shifted closer to the interior air temperature and the winds are not as bad.  The really bad places are down in Burke Channel - watch the Environment Canada Cathedral Point weather station, it's usually pretty interesting, winds gusting to over a 100 kmh (already gusting to 80 kmh tonight) are not uncommon.  In the valley the worst places seem to be near the townsite of Bella Coola, around the Snootli stretch and up past Nusatsum, all places where the valley narrows.

The Weather Doctor has an excellent description of the conditions leading to the formation of arctic outflows and how they behave, a good read (click on Weather Phenomena and Elements)   Note: The Weather Doctor website is by a retired meteorologist living in Valemount BC and he has a lot of great weather information.

Interestingly enough, as of early evening we still don't have the real cold, it's only been up and down of 0 C all day which if you can find a non windy spot, makes for a  pleasant day. Took a bit of a hike today and came across fresh bear tracks on top of the light skiff of snow we received Thursday night - I hope whoever left them is on their way up the mountains to a den.  Grizzly

Friday, December 4, 2009


No big arctic outflow as of this evening but it's starting to gust late tonight and the weather people are talking about it developing with some really cold temperatures in the next few days.  Throughout the day it was only 5-10 km from the east in a few locations  and not for the entire day.  Was generally a pleasant day, reached +2 C and tonight is down to -2 C.  It's presently gusting to 50 kmh ENE down at Cathedral Point (Burke Channel, east side, just north of Kwatna Inlet), a real bell weather spot for watching outflows and a place you want to be far away from in an east wind.  That level of gusting at Cathedral Point is a good indication of the special weather in store for us.

The plant in this picture has developed a nice strategy to protect itself from arctic winds and the drying conditions they bring.  These are the buds of the Alpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa) which is a very common tree around Bella Coola when you reach around 1200-1500 metres (3500-4000') in elevation.  It is essentially a high altitude tree and is easily seen along Highway 20 at Red Hill and beyond on The Hill, where they develop beautiful forms and blue green colours.  As you go higher they become more and more dwarf until at high altitudes above tree line they form what is called Krummholz, which are mats of low very dense trees.  The buds in this photo are typical of their survival strategy which is to secrete a heavy pitch coating in the late summer over the entire bud (that's not ice in this photo - it's all pitch), essentially sealing the tender buds inside and prevent the 'freeze drying' of the buds in the winter which can kill a lot of different trees and shrubs in the Bella Coola Valley during an arctic outflow. Grizzly

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Little bit of Snow

A good day, because it was nice and cool (-4 or-5 C) in the morning, with high light clouds and almost no wind all day.  The clouds gradually closed in till around 4 PM when we got a light snowfall of less than an inch, at least in the more tropical end of the valley.  It's clearing off though tonight and supposed to go much colder. 

The snow we have has formed a nice hard 'late winter' crust on it, so it's much easier to get around and go for walks off the plowed path which is kind of nice for early in the winter.   Grizzly

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sun and Clear

More beautiful December weather, a very stable weather pattern and -3 or -4 C both in the morning and evening and only a little bit of very light outflow.  River levels are all dropping and the Bella Coola River is clearing up nicely.  A fine December day.  Grizzly

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

November Behind Us

I know it's only psychological and that one day can't make a big difference in weather trends, but I'm still happy to see December this year.  Bella Coola Blog readers  flipping through the November posts won't notice many days of great weather like today was.  We have had essentially a clear blue day with light outflows and temperatures so far only down to -3C.  It was beautiful bright night with the snow and the nearly full moon.  We are supposed to have a few nice days albeit they will be cold and we might get some more serious arctic outflow before it's over, but it's not November rain!  Grizzly