Mt. Nusatsum

Mt. Nusatsum

Monday, May 31, 2010

Cottonwood Snow

Sometime last week the first seeds from the female cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) stared 'flying' in the Bella Coola Valley.  It's almost like a light snow of lazy snowflakes on a winter day especially in the morning after the dew has dried and a bit of heat builds up, the seed pods start releasing large quantities of floating seeds that seem to carry in the air for miles.

The seeds are kind of amazing when you consider inside the ball of cellulose filaments is a seed less than a 1 mm wide and 2 or 3 mm long, being carried for miles on the wind and capable of producing a tree weighing many tons, over a metre in diameter and 120 feet tall.  I've watch some seeds land in kids pools and within a week the seeds are germinating and producing a sprout.  Often by the end of the gardening season, the ones that landed in the garden can be 10 cm tall and well on their way towards a full fledged tree.

They can be a nusiance, catching up in window screens and air filters on lawn mowers and anything else that can be plugged up.  It's an annual event though that marks another event in the passing of seasons.  Grizzly

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Interesting Rocks

The Bella Coola Valley while it has a lot of rock, tends not to have a lot of interesting rock formations.  The western end of the valley is in the zone of very hard granite, which has beautiful 'macro' features, i.e. big rock faces, mountains with granite faces, some interesting weathering from streams, but otherwise a lot covered in heavy vegetation and difficult to find really special formations.  To the east the rock is more volcanic in origin and as you get to the back of the valley, tends to be much more broken up and 'chunky' and weathered.

This formation is one of the more interesting I've seen in the western part of the valley and is along North Bentinck Arm.  Unfortunately it's very small only a couple meters tall and none other around.  It's almost like there were pockets of limestone in the granite that dissolved away leaving the hard rock behind.

Another nice Bella Coola day, a bit of cloud in the morning, but warm and sunny most of the afternoon. Grizzly

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sun in the North - Rain in the South

It's not a unique situation for the Bella Coola Valley to enjoy a nice sunny day, when places south of us are having a wee bit of rain.  It's all just a matter of where the weather systems come in off the Pacific and so happens today was one of the days when we enjoyed 20 C, sun and an all around nice May day, while it was a bit showery in Vancouver and the interior.  The tomato plants I set out last week are enjoying it, and more importantly for plant growth it is staying a bit warmer at night.  Nothing slows gardens down worse than really cool nights, and when we get a spell of very warm nights, you can almost see things exploding in growth.

The big moth (sorry I don't know what kind, not being much an insect guy) in this photo was hanging around my job site this morning, must have forgotten to fly off somewhere before daylight came.  Quite an attractive fellow.  Grizzly

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mixed Weather

The Bella Coola Valley had a little bit of everything this week.  Some really nice warm days earlier in the week, some a little cooler and finally Thursday and Friday a bit of rain.  The rain is really needed because the soil and forests are quite dry. 

Spring growth along the highways always attracts the bears, and tonight in a drive down through the valley 5 black bears (some brown phase) and one grizzly bear seemed pretty intent on picking up some of the green groceries on the roadside. Grizzly

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Corn and Tomatoes - Climate Barometers

If you have wondered what kind of climate the Bella Coola Valley is, and if know a little bit about gardening or you live in a place that has a lot of areas that can be marginal for gardening because of valleys with frost pockets or cool damp summers, then you will be able to relate to the simple barometer of determining what kind of climate an area has by finding out if the area gardens grow corn and tomatoes.  I'm talking about reliably year in and year out being able to plant corn by seed without tricks to keep it from freezing and setting out tomato plants about this time of year and leaving them to grow unassisted by row covers, plastic, glass or other devices to lengthen the season or provide warmth.

The Bella Coola Valley at 52 degrees north is one such place.  While you might have occasion to visit when we are having one of our wet periods, because we do get a measure of rain that could be expected in a coastal temperate rain forest, we tend to get most of that rain in October through early December.  If you've visited the valley between May and September and been lucky to catch some of our fine summer weather and commented on the pleasant relatively warm days, then you've experienced 'corn and tomato' days.  These two plants simply won't produce ripe fruit or sweet cobs if they are grown in a marginal climate.  The real hard core gardeners in Bella Coola never miss a year without producing corn, sometimes it's a squeaker and a bit late, but it's there.

If you are looking at places with a good climate, just look at their gardens and ask the simple question, "Can you grow corn and tomatoes every year?"  While we grow corn and tomatoes out in open gardens, the next barometer of gardening would be peppers without assistance or out in open gardens.  Here it gets a little marginal.  A few people are lucky to have sheltered sunny spots or little micro climates, but widespread growing of sweet peppers out in the open isn't common in the Bella Coola Valley.  You need to use  'tricks' such as sunny southern walls, greenhouses, cold frames and other season extenders to accomplish peppers.  Grizzly

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chilcotin Cowboys

Driving across the Chilcotin from Bella Coola to Williams Lake might seem like a long drive, but there is always something interesting to see or a different view of the big landscapes.  This time of year around any corner you expect a cattle drive like the one this cowboy was doing the other day when I drove out.

A small herd of cattle, a rider, a horse, and a highway (this road is BC Highway 20) is all you need to take the cattle from the home ranch to the summer grazing areas.  No high tech stuff, no machines this day, just patience and a route.  The cowboy looked like he had things well under control and the cows pretty relaxed.  You gotta think that he has to be thinking about the risk he is taking letting his income for the year head out in the mountains, not knowing how much of it will come back - but having faith that it's worked out in the past and will again.  Chilcotin beef, some of the best around.  Grizzly

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Red Osier Dogwoods

In the depths of winter the branches of the red osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) shrubs provide really nice colour to the winter landscape with their bright red overwintering colour.  Now the twigs of the trees are an average green, but the clusters of white flowers are providing a nice touch to the spring greenery in the Bella Coola Valley where they occur along streams and edges of fields.  Grizzly

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pollen Lines

Today was a pleasant day in the Bella Coola Valley, a lot of high cloud, but not enough to keep the heat totally out, so the temperature was up to 19 C and no significant wind.    The garden is all planted, but the soil is quite dry, so watering is in order already.

The photo today is of some of the sheer granite walls that plummet nearly vertically into North Bentinck Arm on the northern shoreline.  There are some dramatic views and nice rock faces along this shore.  The lines left on the rock are mostly from the pollen of pine trees and a few others which are still pollinating right now and mark where the high tides were.  Grizzly

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Harbour Grey

This photo taken today from the end of North Bentinck Arm looking east towards the Bella Coola Valley pretty well describes the day.  It was a nice day and warm during the sunny periods, but cool whenever the sun disappeared. 

North Bentinck Arm can be a pleasant place to enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains -- but only for brief periods in the morning before the inflow westerly winds come up, often between 10 AM and noon on most days in the summer, although later in August and September there can be some days when it stays calm all day.  Grizzly

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sunny with rainy periods

Not a bad day for a May long weekend.  It was a comfortable temperature and most of the day had sun with a few minor rainy periods in the afternoon.  By the looks of some of the weather in the province today it was a pretty good day, better than the snow they had in the Peace River area in any case.  Grizzly

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gardening Weekend

While the May long weekend represents a lot of things to a lot of people, for us it usually means everything will be planted in the garden.  It's mostly a matter of available time to get it done and timing in our case of the departure of the Golden and White Crowned Sparrows.  They arrive in April and hang around our place for more than 3 weeks usually and our experience is it can be a waste of time planting the early crops while they are here because a flock will descend on the garden and in matter of minutes a newly sprouted row of lettuce or spinach is gone.  Earlier this week most of them suddenly disappeared leaving just the occasional straggler behind.  While we won't have the earliest corn, it usually catches up and we have our share.  Grizzly

Thursday, May 20, 2010

No Big Storm

Once again Bella Coola's high mountains sheltered us from the wind storm that the coast experienced yesterday.  A few showers over night and again this evening, with a reasonably pleasant day in between marks another May day.  Grizzly

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pine Flowers

You don't normally think of the pine trees that we have in the Bella Coola Valley - shore pine or (Pinus contorta), which is the coastal version of lodgepole pine - as having flowers, but all of our coniferous trees have flowers this time of year and this photo is what the pine flowers look like, they are all female flowers and the male pollen flowers are usually a bit lower down on the branches.  

It was a pleasant warm day in the Bella Coola Valley, lots of sun and not much wind.  Stormy weather is supposed to come, but we were spared today.  Grizzly

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Light Rain

The Environment Canada folks were correct about a change in weather, but it wasn't too serious.  A light sprinkle in the morning, that didn't do much to wet the ground very far.  The soil is still quite dry as I was planting a few garden things tonight and had to do some watering after.  So far in May we have had a fairly typical month which is often dry with a number of warm days, but this year it has been dry but not so much on the warm part.  Grizzly

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nootka Rose

The last time I talked about Rosa nutkana was in the depth of winter in January when I posted a photo of the seed pods or "hips" when they were in the bright red winter colour.  Now it's time for the flowers which are out in the last few days.
They are always a welcome spring event because of their colour and the fragrance that wafts up from a cluster of rose bushes on a warm spring evening.  It only lasts for a week or 10 days and then they dwindle off, so enjoy them while they are out.

At 21 C today it was pleasant in the Bella Coola Valley, but apparently that will change tomorrow according to the weather people.  Grizzly

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Spring Freshet

The warmer days and especially the warmer nights at higher elevations have finally got the snow melting in earnest.  The Bella Coola River has gone from spring 'green' to spring 'brown'.  Tributary streams have changed colour as well with the addition of some glacial melt in them like the river in this photo.

How many weeks the river stays high is really governed by the temperature.  A cool spring, means a long slow runoff, while hot May days will mean high water levels for a few days before it peaks and slows down closer to it's normal summer flow of late June and July.  Grizzly

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Changing Weather

Most of today was a nice day in the Bella Coola Valley, with mostly clear skis and a high temperature of 17 or 18 C.  Around 5 PM though some pretty strong winds developed and it was apparent a change of weather was coming and by 6 PM there was some light rain which continued on and off through the evening.  The soil is actually quite dry so some rain for a day or so would be a good thing.  Grizzly

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fine Day

It was a beautiful Bella Coola Valley May day.  Started out clear and it ended clear.  We had a high temperature of 21 C and not much wind which made it a really pleasant day. Grizzly

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Flowering Lilacs

The last day or so our purple lilacs have come into full bloom. The phenology of the flowering dates for purple lilacs are used in a number of data collection centres as an important indicator of weather and climate patterns.  I think the reason they are especially useful is that lilacs grow in a wide range of places, have been growing for a long time and there has been an interest in tracking the flowering dates for many years.

Most of the day in the Bella Coola Valley was a beautiful sunny day. A bit of high cloud came in this evening, but still a very pleasant day.  Grizzly 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Cooler Day

The warm weather was only a teaser, today we cooled off to 15 C and even needed a touch of wood heat to take the chill off.  It was a warmer night last night, because the Bella Coola River is up about 20 cm over night, looking very nice for Chinook fishing.  Rumors are that a few have been seen fining and someone caught one.  Grizzly

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frogless in Bella Coola

So the Bella Coola Valley is nearly a perfect place, it has a pleasant climate, four distinct seasons, good gardening weather, fishing, hunting and winter and summer activities, great people and a simple lifestyle.  There is one thing that the Bella Coola Valley is lacking that most of the rest of the Province of BC has that we don't and that would be frogs.  I'm referring to the springtime croaking chorus of mating frogs that are so pleasant to listen to on a spring evening.  I've looked in nearly every suspicious pond and asked other people for years- why are there no frogs in Bella Coola?  I get the same response, eyes averted, head down, and the sad answer, "there are no frogs that croak in the Bella Coola Valley".  It's a sad thing considering everything else we have.  There is one tiny exception to this observation and that is a reclusive, almost never seen frog that only lives in steep cold, clear streams above where fish can get to (fish eat them) called the Tailed Frog - but it's not a frog of beauty of spring nights and splashing in ponds, few people have ever seen one.

The lack of frogs isn't a recent phenomenon like other areas where frogs have decreased in numbers, but it appears that they just aren't here - I've found references to some of the early 1900's papers on the natural history of the area and they mention the lack of frogs in the Bella Coola Valley.

It's quit peculiar because you can drive an hour east, to the top of the hill on Highway 20 and the roadside ditches and ponds have abundant frogs.  It's not like the climate is too cold or heaven forbid to wet...they thrive in other areas under these conditions.

So because we lack frogs - the best we can do and be content with is the good old Northwestern Toad or Bufo boreas. These guys are relatively abundant in the valley and this guy in the photo is one of my residents that hangs around my place.  If I dig a hole and leave it for a few days I often find them hiding out in the cool moist bottom of the hole.  He's rather large and friendly, but he doesn't croak.  Frogless in Bella Coola - A real shame.  Grizzly

Monday, May 10, 2010

Avalanche Viewing

In April and May in the Bella Coola Valley avalanche viewing can be a spectators sport and it can be done safely and from the comfort of your lawn chair in your backyard.  Normally April is avalanche viewing month when we get some hot days and a good melt going, but April and early May have been so cool that there hasn't really been much to watch. There is still a lot of snow and most of the avalanche tracks and gulleys are still quite loaded up with snow.

A temperature today of 21 C is what really got them going and the peak viewing hours are usually from 4 PM on when the late afternoon sun has really started to hit the south and west facing slopes.   Because the Bella Coola Valley is quite narrow and the mountains so tall, many areas have quite good views of some of the peaks where you can see avalanches.  Enjoy.  Grizzly

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

A perfect day for a Mothers's Day, sunny and nice and warm in the Bella Coola Valley with a high of 17 C, although it felt a little warmer further east in the valley than the Bella Coola Airport weather station.

There are lots of plants in flower now in the valley, this one a very common plant that grows well on disturbed sites is Red Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) and it likes shady roadsides.  It's always a favourite, and is easy to grow in a garden if you collect the seed from it in a few weeks.  Grizzly

Saturday, May 8, 2010


At 19 C at the Bella Coola Airport with mostly clear skies all day, it was a really nice warm May day in the Bella Coola Valley.  The lawns are growing like crazy after the rain and cool days we had.  The valley hay fields are starting to look like a good crop will come as long as we don't get a prolonged dry spell in June like we had in 2009 which was really hard on hay production.  Not much of the snow pack in the mountains has started to melt yet, but the next  2 or 3 weeks will tell if comes off fast due to hot weather, or it just kind of shrinks away if we have a cool spring.  Grizzly

Friday, May 7, 2010

Light Frost

Another cool start this morning with a light touch of's getting on in May to be seeing frost as frequently as we have it had it.  Traditionally around the third week in May is when it's reliably safe to plant frost sensitive plants, so we have a ways to go.

A high temperature today of 18 C was nice, but there were cool cells of showers that you could see in various parts of the valley for part of the day.  The evening cleared off beautifully and it was a great calm May Bella Coola Valley evening.  Grizzly

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cottonwood Fruit

While these might look like clusters of small grapes, they are only immature cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) seed pods.  It appears some animal or bird has been feeding on them because most of the young pods, full of undeveloped seeds and probably a rich little meal, had been broken open and cleaned out. The seed pods were also broken off and laying on the ground, far below where they normally reside high up in the canopy.

A nice warming trend in the Bella Coola Valley continued today, just in time as the weekend approaches.  It wasn't really warm but quite pleasant most of the day.  Some areas of the valley had pretty good rain showers in the early evening from some of the cloud buildup, but they didn't last long.  A high temperature of 18 C made it all around good.  Grizzly

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fresh Growth

Nearly all the coniferous trees in the lower elevations are in the beginning or early stages of the spring 'flush' of growth.  One that is especially attractive is the new growth of the Alpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa).  This species is one that you don't easily get a chance to look at in the spring because it's a mid - high elevation tree and hiking in the alpine early in the year when they are flushing out isn't that great an experience (wet, mosquitoes, cold).  Fortunately I've got a few in my yard that I planted and they are all doing extremely well, so it's easy to enjoy their spring growth.

It was a nice day in the Bella Coola Valley - a touch of frost in some low pockets, but reasonably warm and sunny skies most of the day.  Grizzly

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Caribou on Caribou Flats

In the Chilcotin along Highway 20 east of Nimpo Lake a few kilometres is a brushy meadow known as Caribou flats -- I'm sure the real reason it was named Caribou Flats was probably because Caribou used to be seen there lots.  While I've seen Caribou many times near the flats, I finally saw my first Caribou right out on the flats last week.  They seemed pretty happy to be browsing along the meadows, where the moose and cows that browse and graze didn't eat everything up last fall and winter.  They are part of a herd that lives in the nearby Itcha Mountains or possibly on Mount Kappan.

Today in the Bella Coola Valley the weather was much improved, lots of sunny periods, but still not really warm. The fresh snow in the mountains of the last few days only melted a part way up the mountains, but the freezing level is still quite a ways down the mountains. Grizzly

Monday, May 3, 2010

May Cold

Wow - a cold night and cool day for May!  This morning it was 3 C in the Bella Coola Valley and you can see in the photo just how low the snow was, but from listening to the news we weren't alone in this province with cold and snow flurries.

It only warmed up briefly and we had a few sunny periods in the evening.  The Bella Coola River is back to a nice clear condition, although it is up still from it's lowest point early in April.  Any time now people will be talking about the first Chinook salmon that so and so caught in the river - so it will soon be time to start fishing, which will compete with gardening and other yard work.  Grizzly

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Low May Snow

Not a very nice day in the Bella Coola Valley today.  A high temperature of 7 C with rain showers and fresh snow quite a way down the mountains.  It was even snowing lightly in Heckman Pass on Highway 20 when I drove into Bella Coola this evening. There is about 1.5 feet of snow left in the timber and meadows along the road in Heckman Pass.   This kind of weather is not helping the fruit trees which were blooming last week.  Grizzly

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Barbed Wire

While cutting firewood this past winter I tripped over an old piece of barbed wire that was barely sticking out of the ground.  Happens a lot around the valley because so much of the land over the years has been used for keeping some sort of animal from getting out or in some cases keeping bears from getting in.  While I curse it when I find it because it's dangerous for animals and chainsaws, when I looked at it I realized that it was well on it's way to returning to the earth.  Much of it was so old that the metal was rusted, crystallized and brittle.  Since then I've paid attention to some barbed wire fences and noticed than even when it is above ground, after a number of years the galvanizing wears and if you look closely this 'barb' has become habitat for lichens, along with rust and weathering.  While it seems pretty permanent, I guess it's just time that determines when it will disappear.  Grizzly