Mt. Nusatsum

Mt. Nusatsum

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Very Mild

Good thing my wife and I decided to go cross country skiing in Tweedsmuir Park today, it was a pretty dreary day in our piece of the Bella Coola Valley with rain showers, low clouds and a temperature of 6 C. The snow pack we had is in full retreat.  It made for good fire wood chopping and piling though after the 12 km ski we did.  It was nice in Tweedsmuir Park at East Branch, right at 0 C, a bit of sun and 30 km of groomed cross country trails on top of a deep base of snow.  Grizzly

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Getting it Done

One of the things I do is spend some time helping out the Tweedsmuir Ski Club.  It's a pretty unique arrangement like a lot of things in the Bella Coola Valley.  It's a club that goes back nearly 50 years in time and was driven by the desire of Bella Coola Valley residents to have reliable winter recreation.  It's unique because our membership consists of an equal number of snowmobilers, X Country skiers and snowboarders/skiers, who all get along and work together to provide fun and healthy winter recreation. Originally they had a small ski hill near the highway in the Bella Coola Valley, but our winters proved to be just too unpredictable.  Someone had the great idea back in the 1960's to move the operation up 'The Hill" to the part of Tweedsmuir Park where winter starts in mid October and ends in late May - we're talking a long winter.  It was a brilliant move though.  These folks started out with a little rope tow on a small hill several kms off the highway, so no matter what you do you've got to get some exercise just getting there.  Most people either have a snowmobile or tow or double the people who don't have one, some ski in or snowshoe.  Sometime in the 60's they also built what we call the "Overnight Cabin", a log cabin that had a loft and a lot of bunks in it.  This cabin was about 2 km from the highway.  I think just about everybody who grew up in the Bella Coola Valley in the last 50 years has enjoyed time up there.

Unfortunately in 2009 the cabin was destroyed by the 2500 ha Heckman Pass forest fire.  It was a big loss for the community, but word spread quickly and a bunch of folks in the Quesnel area, some who are members of the Tweedsmuir Ski Club and other clubs and some who just wanted to help out, donated a log cabin that was surplus to their clubs needs.  Not only did they donate it, these folks organized getting it delivered to our site where we will piece by piece haul it in to the site and later this coming summer rebuild it. (after the mosquitoes die off - I'll tell you about those this summer in a separate post).

Well today was moving day and in one day a building was disassembled near Quesnel BC, loaded on a truck, driven 8 hours, unloaded and the owner of the truck headed off to get to another job.  It's been a great example of cooperation between communities, volunteers working hard and  a real example of "Getting it Done".  I'll post the odd update on the construction as it progresses this year.  Grizzly

Friday, January 29, 2010

9 C !!

Wow, that was a nice January day, especially with a high of 9 C at the Bella Coola Airport and some sunshine as well.  It was warm enough that some of the frost was even coming out of the ground today which is hard to believe for January.  Last fall when the talk of El Nino was around I wasn't certain what it would mean for the Bella Coola Valley given that winter started kind of early and December was a bit on the cool side, I think we are now seeing the real meaning of El Nino.  Grizzly

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wet Snow

Finally some weather to talk about!  While it hardly qualifies to talk about much, the latest system brought a little wet snow to the Bella Coola Valley bottom this morning. It was barely a couple of centimetres and by mid morning it had turned to rain.  It was a lot like a November day, but a wet January day is far better than a wet November day, because you know there isn't another 200 mm of rain behind it.  Grizzly

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blow Down, Fall Down, Burn Down or Cut Down

Around these parts, there are pretty much only four ways that most of the trees end up on the ground.   The tree stump in this photo is an obvious example of one that was cut down a long time ago by early settlers.  What's interesting about this stump and tree is the size of the Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) coming out of the centre of the stump.  It is 75 cm in diameter and more than doing well for the last 80-100 years. The stump or what remains of it after it 'cracked' open some time ago is a Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) stump.

It's a great example of the resilience of the forest.  When you consider the floods and fires that have gone through and the areas cleared for agriculture and homes, you can see the persistence of the forest to reestablish, even if it means growing on top of someone else's remains.

The summer of 2009 of course saw a fair number of trees in the Bella Coola Valley meet their end through forest fire.  The ones that blow down in the Bella Coola Valley are not usually in larger patches like you see on the outer coast where the shallow soils and the big fall and winter storms do their damage.  A lot of our valley blow down patches tend to be associated with fringes and fronts of the avalanche tracks from the horrendous wind that avalanches generate.

I've had occasion to experience trees that 'fall down' for no apparent reason as well.   Years back my wife and I were camping in a tent in a provincial campsite and in the middle of a dead calm night, a large cottonwood tree chose that moment to come crashing to the ground just behind our tent for no apparent reason, other than it's time had come.  It was more than a scary moment, when we heard it start to fall with no time to move and unsure where it was going.  Careful when you walk in the woods.

This photo I took today gives you and idea of the kind of weather we are having.  It's a pool on the Bella Coola River.  It was another nice calm day in  the Bella Coola Valley.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brown Fields

This photo sums up what kind of day it was in the Bella Coola Valley - a very nice day in that we reached a high of 4 C and had no wind and some sunny periods.   A lot of the lower valley fields are bare like this one and quit dried out because it has been a month of low precipitation.  While we did get a bit of snow in the mountains in the last 24 hours there wasn't much to find on the valley bottom.    Grizzly

Monday, January 25, 2010

Very light Snow

A little less wind today and still in the same temperature range of just above and below 0 C.  It was gray in the morning, but then got very gray late in the afternoon and a fine light snow started.  The snow didn't really materialize into anything significant.  January continues to surprise this year in Bella Coola with the good weather.  Grizzly

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Sometime through the night, the Arctic Outflow picked up.  It was pretty breezy down in the Bella Coola Valley today, but not really cold, just below 0 C.  My favourite outflow wind indicator at Cathedral Point in Burke Channel was gusting to 103 km/h today.

It was also a little colder in the Chilcotin for the winter activities (-15 C range), but still a decent day to get out and do something fun in our extraordinary winter paradise that is so convenient to access from the Bella Coola Valley. Grizzly

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Another similar day in the Bella Coola Valley to the rest of the this week.  It was nice because the temperature is stable at just above 0 C, with a  high of 4 C and high clouds but no rain or snow.  It was a little cooler in the Tweedsmuir Park at East Branch, -9 C with a bit of ice fog, but the Highway 20 hill is in fine shape.  Grizzly

Friday, January 22, 2010


It's okay it's not contagious - it's just a lichen.

As I mentioned in a previous post, finding some winter colour is always a treat when you are either tired of the white of snow or the dull of winter ground.  It takes a bit of looking around but when you find something bright you just have to take a picture. These lungwort lichens were a vibrant green and seem to be thriving given the mid winter conditions. They tend to stand out a little more in wet conditions, so last week during our 'damp' spell was a good time to look for them.  They apparently derive their name from the fact that a long time ago the medical professionals of the day had a habit of using plants that resembled body parts which needed treatment.  The books I checked suggest the upper surface of these lichens resemble the inner surface of the lung.  I'm pretty sure my lungs look better than these guys!  This lichen has also been used as an indicator of air pollution, they need clean air to thrive - it's pretty obvious by this photo that we've got a lock on that since our air in the Bella Coola Valley comes via airmail straight across the Pacific Ocean.

It was another beautiful mid winter day for us though in Bella Coola Valley, blue skies, light wind and above freezing.  Amazing.  Grizzly

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Clear River

What a stretch of weather for January!  It hasn't been extreme in any direction this month and the Bella Coola River has dropped right down and is very clear.  You can easily see the bottom across the whole river now.  I've heard the cutthroat trout fishing is getting very good as well.  It certainly looked like the kind of river conditions today where you could enjoy some catch and release cutthroat fishing. It will be a struggle this on the Bella Coola River or winter activities at East Branch in Tweedsmuir Park?

We had a high of 5 C today and relatively calm, although I heard it was a bit breezy in the town site of Bella Coola and Cathedral Point (Burke Channel) was blowing in the 40 km/h NE (outflow) range all day.  It was interesting that there was no wind further up the valley.  Grizzly

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gravestones & Glaciers

You might not know it, but dying in Bella Coola and being buried in our pretty little cemetery  can make a real contribution to the study of glaciology and the relation to the climate shift debate that is happening.  Everyone seems to be in in agreement that glaciers like the one in this photo are generally getting smaller, and we've all watched the ones we can see from roads around Bella Coola shrinking over time.

In the late 90's some researchers were looking at the period known as the "Little Ice Age" which was a cooler period in this area beginning in the 13th century.  This period saw glaciers advancing in the 13th and 14th centrury, taking a break, then advancing again in the 17th and 19th centuries and finally ending in the 20th century.  While a lot of interest and research has gone into determining more about the extent of this Little Ice Age, researchers are always looking at ways to more accurately determine when a period ended.  In the case of the end of the Little Ice Age in this area, one method has been to examine glacial moraines adjacent to glaciers and the vegetation growth on these (mostly trees) to determine when these areas became ice free by aging the trees.  It's common to use the technique of dating trees that grow on the moraines, but some moraines take 100's of years for trees to colonize that could be useful for dating or the altitude is too high to ever see trees useful for dating.

A technique of dating called lichenometry exists where the growth rate of lichens on exposed rock is measured and then the age of the lichen is determined and thus working backwards arriving at when the rock become exposed (from the ice or glacier).  One of the challenges with this method is that lichens grow at different rates in different areas and different species.  Clear headed, clever researchers who spend a lot of time breathing clean mountain air and looking at glaciers in the Coast Mountains and especially the areas around Bella Coola figured out that they could use the Bella Coola Cemetery to help them determine the date of glacial retreat.   By finding gravestones of natural rock, with lichens on them (Rhizocarpon geographicum) which grow on rocks at altitudes and in the cemetery, the rocks exposed recently near glaciers could be dated.  They simply compared the size of the lichens on the rocks with the size of the lichens from gravestones in the Bella Coola Cemetery.  This lichen species can become 100's of years old and by measuring the diameters can be used to age the rock exposure time.

Turns out these researchers used 9 different gravestones in the Bella Coola cemetery to develop the "Bella Coola Lichen Curve" (go ahead type it into Google if you don't believe me), which is simply a line on a graph plotting age vs size (diameter).  Since the Bella Coola Lichen Curve was developed most glaciologists working in the area refer to it in their studies or calibrate their own data against it, to age areas which are ice free near glaciers and thus start to determine when areas became ice free. Of course the longer the period we have data on the melting and advancing of glaciers will help bring more facts and science to climate discussions.

One thing I'm certain on--make sure they use a big rock for my gravestone, I want to make my contribution to future climate studies long after I'm gone.  Grizzly

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Southern Air

An interesting weather pattern this week has the clouds moving over the Bella Coola Valley today in an almost northerly direction, virtually going straight over the valley moving north, instead of the common flow from the west.  It must be bringing a lot of mild air from southern latitudes with it, because it's staying well above zero, partially clear and almost no wind down in the valley.   With a high temperature of 9 C today at the Bella Coola Airport , and bare ground from the Salloomt area all the way to North Bentinck Arm, one could be lulled into thinking winter is slipping behind us, but don't be tricked -- February can be an interesting month around here as well.  Grizzly

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tenacious Grasses

Getting out and about in the mountains around Bella Coola in the winter time always reminds me how tenacious a group of plants grasses are.  While we know they are some of our worst weeds, they of course feed most of us through the corn and grain crops we rely on in this world as well.  They are really incredible plants when you look around the world and see the range of conditions they grow and thrive in.  Anywhere around the Central Coast where you find nice sandy bottomed bays and lower beaches the sub-tidal Eel grass (Zostera marina) plant thrives, which is so vitally important on our coast for herring spawing and shellfish habitat. It spends its entire life completely submerged in salt water, including flowering and reproduction while underwater- while it is not in the true grass family, it's closely related to grasses like the rushes and sedges are.  At the other extreme are the grasses which grow on the craggiest peaks of high mountain ranges in the world.  In the summer, the grass in this photo thrive and grow in the Rainbow Mountains of Tweedsmuir Park at nearly 7000' (2100 metres) on a windswept ridge.

Apparently the 6 months of winter exposed to the extreme cold and drying wind conditions aren't enough to discourage these guys.  Thankfully the grass family and its close relatives can survive deserts, below sea level and high mountain peaks and provide so many important things for us.  I'll try to remember that when I'm cursing grass in my garden this summer, I can see through the snow it has survived as well...Grizzly

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Good Day

If you stayed down in the Bella Coola Valley you saw a really nice day in the eastern end and just a nice day in the western end.  If you went 'up top' as we say, which means in South Tweedsmuir Park at the top of the Highway 20 hill where all the winter activities are, then you had some great weather for cross country skiing, snowmobiling or a day at the little ski hill.  It looked like this photo where I was today looking out over the mountains in South Tweedsmuir. Grizzly

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hazelnut Trees - A Sign of Spring?

With several more months of winter to go it's always tempting to start to think about the signs of spring when you have had a warm and wet spell like we had last week.  Hazelnut trees (Corylus cornuta) while not native to the Bella Coola Valley are native to B.C. in both the Hazelton area and widespread throughout the south  and eastern interior.  In Bella Coola there are a few around which have been planted and do very well here.  I find them interesting because this time of year the male catkin flowers start to change colour and actually grow. You don't notice it until one day you look at the tree and suddenly you realize something looks different and it's the masses of catkins getting closer to flowering.  It's not to be taken as a sign of spring though, it's just an indication that things are progressing normally through the winter and it's something fun to watch.  I'll try to get photos when it flowers and especially a photo of the female flower - if I can, they are so tiny and hard to see I may not.

Our trees produce some hazelnuts, but we rarely get to try them as every year just before they get to the picking stage the Stellar's Jays move in and before we know it they are all gone.  Maybe one year we'll figure out how to outsmart them.   

It was a nice break in the weather today, a change day from the dull and dreary to something brighter.  We actually saw the sun for awhile and it looks like we are shifting back into something  more wintry for the next few days. Grizzly

Friday, January 15, 2010

January 15, 1950 - The Coldest Day in Bella Coola History

This is the 60th anniversary of the coldest day in over 100 years of weather records in the Bella Coola Valley.  I know the suspense has been killing my regular blog readers so here it is.  On this day in 1950 the weather station which was located on Grant Road North recorded a minimum temperature of -28.9 C.  This is in a month where there was only one day where the maximum temperature came up to zero, but for the rest of the month the nearest warmest day was -4.4 C.

It's not record cold compared to the nearby Chilcotin, where -50 C is normal in the Puntzi area.  What's notable is that we are on the edge of a coastal rain forest and this weather station was less than 10 km from the Ocean at less than 50 metres elevation so it was an extreme temperature.  There are accounts of the South and North Bentinck Arms freezing over hard enough to drive on. If you know some folks that were old enough to remember that month, ask them about it,  I bet there are some interesting stories to be heard.  It's also a reminder of the dedication of the people that kept those weather records as volunteers for the government weather record office for all those years until an Environment Canada operated station was installed in the 1980's.  I am fairly certain Bella Coola weather record data will become increasingly important in the future as more attention turns to the study of climate trends. In the meantime it's time to move onto another weather trend in the Bella Coola Valley this week, enough of dull rainy days.  Grizzly

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Shrinking Snowpack

This mild weather and light to moderate rain is putting a dent in valley bottom snow pack and to the pack below 5000' as the warm spell continues.  Today was another day of 1 to 2 C for the most of the day with sporadic rain showers.  More snow at least in the mountains  for the sake of building the winter mountain snow pack would be a good thing any time now. Grizzly

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Red Osier Dogwood

After a few dull days have stacked up in the Bella Coola Valley you start to hope for something 'bigger' to happen with the weather so you can get out of the weather rut you are in.  If the dull days drag on too long, one strategy is to start looking for the finer points on what's going on for clues that the season is actually moving on. One plant my wife and I enjoy watching is the Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) that is quite widespread in the valley.  It grows along roadsides, streamsides and field margins.  In the very late fall the green summer time bark starts to turn red and it seems to get more intense as the winter progresses a bit.  Right now they seem to be at the peak and brilliant red.  It's on dull days without much sky contrast that they seem to be at their best.  They are also a favourite for browsing by deer in our area.

Weather today was just a little above zero in the morning  followed by another mild day with rain showers tonight.  Grizzly

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Little Bit of Rain

Well we missed the brunt of the warm Pacific system that washed over Vancouver Island and caused a number of problems down that way.  Hopefully we get back into a winter flow of moisture mixed with Arctic systems that bring an average winter and some more snow pack to the mountains soon.

It was pretty mild today in the Bella Coola Valley and seeing green fields in the lower valley is a nice treat from the older tired looking snow in the upper valley.   Grizzly 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Rain & Warm

It rained most of the night, 10 mm or so in my part of the valley and then on and off most of the day, while the temperature popped up to the 5 to 6 C range, which is the first time the temperature has been that warm for weeks.  My estimate is that the freezing level was at approximately 5500' based on the fresh snow above that level, so that's a pretty high level, but we didn't get enough rain to make too much difference to the Bella Coola River.

This red fox was pretty curious today when I went for a short walk at lunch.   He was with another fox and I think he was the dog fox of the couple based on his wider facial features and the other one that ran away was much more dainty looking in the face so it was likely the vixen.   My quick search tonight (Hinterland Who's Who) suggests we are in the fox breeding season right now which would explain why this gentlemen was not that pleased looking.  For those not from Bella Coola, red foxes are really common, they pretty much go from the estuary to the end of the valley and come in a huge range of colours from black to the colour of this one.

Speaking of Hinterland Who's Who, with my friend Google I found a beautiful colour explanation  about foxes in under 30 seconds, but I remember as kid watching those ancient Canadian Wildlife Service Hinterland commercials on scratchy black and white TV and actually sending away a letter requesting their fact sheets.  The fact sheets would come back weeks later in an official government envelop often with a cover letter, "Dear Kid:  Enclosed are the fact sheets you requested..."  which in those days were black and white with beautiful line drawings.   I collected these as a kid - I think I still have them, maybe I should try selling them on  Ebay or perhaps my kids really want them?  Probably not though, times have changed. Grizzly

Sunday, January 10, 2010

More Coho

We took a little stroll today along the Bella Coola River and found a small stream with less than 100 metres of stream accessible to salmon.  It looked like it had a pretty good spawning population of coho recently.  The grizzly bear that was around before Christmas found them as well, as he had 'camped' out on this creek and we found the remains of a half dozen frozen mostly eaten coho.   A few must have spawned before he took them though as there was evidence of both live and dead eggs in some of the swirls of back eddies in the creek.  I think the bear is gone now for the big sleep because all the tracks are 3-4 weeks old in frozen snow.   We were lucky though - as we gazed out on this view of the Bella Coola River we observed a small school of live coho milling around off the mouth of the creek.  These fish should do really well when they spawn with the bears fat and happy somewhere beneath the deep snow in a den and the floods over.

Otherwise the picture says it all, pretty gray, calm and warmer (2 C) today in the Bella Coola Valley - a nice early winter break.  Grizzly

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dull and Wet

A very dull wet day in the Bella Coola Valley.  Hard to find much winter colour but these rose hips from the Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana) are one plant that can be relied on for a bit of winter colour.  They don't seem to be the favourite for birds, or else there are so many around the birds never get around to eating them all, because they last all winter on the bushes around our place.  Although we did have a pair of Ruffed Grouse hanging around in our thicket for a few days so I suspect they were picking away at them.

We had a serious rain today as the temperature was in the plus 1 and 2 C range most of the day and the freezing level has gone way up.  Hope we are getting some fresh snow in the Eastbranch area where all the winter activities take place.  Grizzly

Friday, January 8, 2010

Freezing Rain

Fortunately freezing rain is not all that common in the Bella Coola Valley unlike most places east of us in this country  It's not rare either, but it just doesn't tend to be really extensive when we get freezing rain.  Last night's freezing rain didn't last too long, but it was enough to completely glaze everything over with a few mm of ice this morning and make for careful driving and walking pretty well everywhere in the valley.

Tonight we are having our first light rain at + 2 C for a long time, since Dec 18 in fact.  And there wasn't much rain in December either, only 12.2 mm plus 4.9 cm of snow.  It feels nice out there tonight, but it's that time of year when something dramatic should happen for a snowfall, but no signs of it on the horizon.  Maybe the El Nino means winter will just shrivel away this year.  Grizzly

Thursday, January 7, 2010

When Relics Become Artifacts

I'm sure the science of Archaeology has rules and debates about when old junk becomes an artifact, but looking at this old piece of rusted steel on the Bella Coola River estuary at Christmas time when my daughter and I took a sortie on the estuary made me realize that artifacts don't have to be very old to start taking on meaning and teaching us about the past.

This old piece of machinery looks like the remains of the cab of a log yarding machine or part of the log dumping apparatus which used to be in place in the estuary prior to the early 1970's.  While first impressions are that's it's ugly and maybe at one time it was environmentally hazardous if it leaked oil, now it's beyond that and in it's own way it's actually attractive in my opinion.  Not only is it kind of visually attractive with the hues of iron rust that have developed but it also represents an important part of the  history of Bella Coola and the people that worked hard in the past.

Now don't get me wrong, I wouldn't choose to put an old piece of machinery on a important estuary for fish and wildlife like the Bella Coola estuary, but facts are it's there and not only does it illustrate to us what used to take place there, but how much change can actually happen.  For many many years logs were dumped in places like the Bella Coola estuary and the estuaries were diked, channeled, bridged and otherwise altered, but that era is long past in Bella Coola and that work goes in a appropriate place further down the channel.  This estuary is again a quiet place other than many species of birds, important plants and occasional bear that wanders around.  All the various activities that went on in the estuary from farming to airstrips to log and boat storage are becoming hard to distinguish.  I found myself giving my daughter a history lesson about these things that have some remaining clues as to what went on, but without an explanation about the past just have no context and don't seem possible.

Weather update - Finally a little bit of weather to talk about today.  We didn't change much in temperature from the zero C range we have been in but a short blast of freezing rain went through tonight and left a nice glaze on everything in a really short order.  Careful on the roads.  Grizzly

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Firewood Debate Followup

A question was asked about the difference in BTU's between Mountain Pine Beetle killed Lodgepole Pine and green Lodgepole Pine that is cut and allowed to dry.  It's good question, because it comes up often over in the corner when the guys are talking about important things at social events as well.  My opinion is that beetle killed pine has less BTU's because some of the volatile oils that originate in green wood and give fresh green pine such a strong beautiful smell vaporize in the drying process and you would expect less of those oils available to burn in long dead pine.

So to answer this question I looked to the web (this isn't a science forum folks -- so take it for what it's worth) and at this website noticed right off the bat that they supply pine pellets from beetle killed pine in Colorado and premium pine from BC.

Eco-Flame Premium Pellets (Softwood)
Eco-Flame wood pellets by Confluence Energy from Kremmling, Colorado are sourced from Lodgepole Pine trees killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle that has infested many forests in Colorado and surrounding states. These trees are being removed to help protect the remaining forest and land from devastating forest fires, and being used to help heat homes in the process. These premium wood pellets have been tested to have ash content typically below .65% and heat value of 8,000 BTU/lb.

The same place sells something they call "Green Supreme" made of Lodgepole Pine with a premium grade standard and you'll note an extra 200 BTU/lb.

Green Supreme (Softwood)
This product is manufactured in British Columbia and is then shipped to the US in bulk, where it is packaged by New England Wood Pellet. This pellet is made from Lodgepole Pine and exceeds the Pellet Fuel Institute's premium grade standard in every category. This product has the same low ash, low dust, high energy burning characteristics as other softwood pellets. The Green Supreme premium pellet is consistently sized, has a very faint softwood fragrance and average ash content of 0.22 percent and heating value of 8,200 BTU/lb.

This is not a lot of data to go on -- my daughter will critique me for this based on my sample size - as she's big into statistics at university!

It was a little bit of weather transition today in the Bella Coola Valley.  Mostly grey and windy and just above 0 C till late afternoon, when the whole thing blew east and by sunset it was beautiful cold clear day and just around -1 C tonight.  Grizzly

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Nice Outflow

The weather is staying so fine, it's almost nothing to talk about and we are taking it for granted.  We are growing used to clear skies, with temperatures just up and down of zero C for the last week.  There has been a pretty good outflow wind in the last couple days, although the 'arctic' part of it seems to be missing because it's not very cold.  Cathedral Point has been breezy though today with steady 70 km/h wind with gusts up to 90 km/h.

I think the animals are enjoying it based on the the squirrel, fox and deer tracks all happily walking on top the super hard snow crust that has formed.  Grizzly

Monday, January 4, 2010

Firewood Debates

Awhile back in a post about firewood I talked about the debates that go on regarding the best firewood to burn.   It's always a good topic this time of year at social events when neighbors compare how fast their respective woodpiles are diminishing. When the guys are all over in one corner at the Christmas parties, the ladies think we're talking about some pretty important stuff, but mostly it's debates like what kind of wood are you burning or how's your woodpile looking.

I decided to look at some facts about whether alder or birch was better or what about  fir or beetle killed pine?  There is lots of information out there, and the numbers vary a bit depending on how it's calculated, but my handy "Pocket Ref by Thomas Glover, 2nd ed" and some websites led me to the comparisons listed below.

Included is a calculation based on heating a typical home that uses 5 cords of alder and what the equivalent would be in the other species of wood or heating oil for comparison.

The bottom line is that the deciduous species are a pretty good source of wood, especially the alder and birch.  They are the most easily accessible sources of wood in the Bella Coola Valley, and not commercially valuable in the locations woodcutters can get access to them.  If Cottonwood is easy to access and you have storage space, then it makes a good firewood source as well because it doesn't take more than one or two cottonwood trees to produce a number of cords of wood.  That's my situation on my little woodlot, I first go around and salvage any blown down wood, then look for any standing dead and then each year I selectively take out one or two big cottonwoods and some alders.  The cottonwoods are scary brutes to fall if you are not a logger, so I only seek out the least uncomplicated looking candidates I can find before I attempt to drop them and I leave the big ones as they make fine trees for Bald Eagles to nest in.  If you can cut it before mid March it is easier to split. I am sure I have created some more cocktail debates about firewood preferences, but that's a good thing, because if you are having firewood debates in a social situation, then you are talking about the things that are really important to the essentials of life in a rural area.  Grizzly

Sunday, January 3, 2010

XC Skiing

Today was dedicated to XC Skiing with my wife and the dog.   The dog and I did the 12 km track while my wife did the 7 km track on the fabulous East Branch crossing country skiing area in Tweedsmuir Park.  Volunteers maintain 30 km of tracked trails through beautiful Chilcotin pine forests.  It was a fine day for it, -3 C in the Bella Coola Valley and only - 6 C up top in the park.  There is over a metre of snow base and good fast conditions.  It's what makes Bella Coola special - that we have access to such 'interior' activities so close to a 'coastal' location.

The photo is along the way of the 12 km trail on the west end where the 2500 ha Heckman Pass wildfire swept through this area in late July of 2009.  It's beautiful in it's own way with the contrast of the burnt trees on the snow, but also sad to see the end of an amazing stand of Lodgepole Pine  (Pinus contorta)  in this area.  Some of these trees had reached 50 cm in diameter and were very old because the growing season at 5000' elevation is short.  Unfortunately if the fire hadn't killed them the Mountain Pine Beetle was well on its way to creating the same result in this area.  Grizzly

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Light Snow & Grey

Pretty straight forward day.  Started out at -3 C and ended at -2 C.  A light snow on and off throughout the day, but barely accumulated 1 cm of snow.  Grizzly

Friday, January 1, 2010

60th Anniversary of the Month from Hell

The end of 2009 saw a Blue Moon, (although we had just enough cloud cover to make seeing it not easy),  a bit of east wind, and a little skiff of snow. The first day of 2010 in Bella Coola with partial blue sky, - 3 or -4 C and no wind made a great New Years day.

Today was tropical compared to this day in Bella Coola in 1950 when the minimum temperature was -21.1 C. 

It's been 60 years since the month of weather hell that hit the Pacific Coast as a series of Arctic outbreaks and Pacific storms that alternately brought heavy snows to some places on the coast and the province and extreme cold weather the entire month.   I wasn't around for 1950, but did a little bit of looking at weather records for Bella Coola which has a very long term weather record going back over 100 years due to very meticulous weather record volunteers who kept the weather at the Grant Road station for Environment Canada (the existing Bella Coola Airport station only has records from the early 80's).

From all accounts, not only does January 1950 contain the coldest recorded temperature in 100 years of weather records for the Bella Coola Valley, but it is also notable for the fact that the highest daily maximum temperature never came above 0 C for the whole month and there were some impressive lows for a little coastal valley on the Central Coast.  I'll let you know what the record low was on the day it occurred (hint watch the January 15 post).  Grizzly