Mt. Nusatsum

Mt. Nusatsum

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

North vs South

In my recent post "Haying is Done", a comment was posted about whether there was some sort of north vs. south rivalry in Bella Coola regarding where the climate and soil and best place to live is as far as soil and sun. Let me see if I can wade into this and straighten it out.

First of all understand that the average 'useable' width for human settlement and agriculture in the Bella Coola Valley is only around 2 km throughout the lower valley and a lot less as you progress east in the valley. Except for a few old glacial terraces such as parts of the Salloomt area and around Nusatsum and a few other benches  a lot of the Bella Coola Valley is within the theoretically calculated 200 year flood zone from either the Bella Coola River or one of it's tributary streams. A number of areas have flood dikes as protection. Even some of the areas that look like they are higher (not the benches I referred to earlier) quite likely are the result of large alluvial fans built up over thousands of years and can be subject to unexpected stream channel changes over times.  Unquestionably the best soil is naturally on the main flat part of the valley where it has been deposited by fluvial river action since the last glaciers retreated, there are many areas of beautiful growing potential, within this area.

The majority of human settlement in the lower valley is on the south side of the Bella Coola River, except for the Salloomt Road area and then east of the bridge over the Bella Coola River where the highway shifts to the north side and so does the area of habitation.  If you  have a piece of property towards the north side of the valley like the Salloomt Road area you get a lot more winter sun, but there are only certain sections of that area that are on benches and out of the potential flood zone.  The drawback is that it's pretty dry from a forest fire hazard point of view, and a little harder to find water for wells.  If you live on the south side of the Bella Coola River from west of Noosgulch River, then there is a lot of really nice places, many with good soil and some get decent winter sun - depending on whether you are in view of one of  the 'notches'  of the side valleys which comes in from the south, because then in the winter with the sun low on the southern horizon you will get a few hours of sun even on the shortest day as the sun traverses the sky across those drainage's.

If you live up tight against the mountains on the south side, you will most likely have a 2 month plus period of no sun, possibly a little difficulty getting satellite TV, but you will have a lovely summer climate from March to October.

There's pros and cons to everything, just do your homework and ask the neighbors around you.  Grizzly

Monday, August 30, 2010


Today in the Bella Coola Valley was a day of mostly grey sky conditions. The clouds threatened a few times to open up, but at least until this evening it was grey with a few spitting rain drops.  Supposed to be a little more wet the next few days.  At least we got to see the mountains for a few hours today when the afternoon heat that was present forced the clouds up.  Grizzly

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Farmers Market

Sundays are Farmers Market days in the Bella Coola Valley during the gardening season.  The market happens at Lobelco Hall - between Hagensborg and Bella Coola.  We stopped in last weekend and had a coffee, visited and bought a few goodies.  There is always some nice crafts and art work done by valley residents, some seasonal produce, but most importantly one particular regular booth always has fudge -- it's a must have for my daughter and I.

It turned out pretty nice in the valley today, hitting a high of 20 C and some sunny periods, with some light showers down towards the inlet in the evening.  Grizzly

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Coho & Pinks

The Bella Coola River is in fine shape for the upcoming fall fishing for coho salmon.  Talked to a few fishermen and it seems there aren't many pink salmon to be caught in the river, but some pretty nice coho salmon are being caught, big and shiny.  River level and colour is good for the Bella Coola River and should only get better with the cooler weather we are having and not much sign of hot-spell on the horizon. Grizzly

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fire & Snow

I talked to one of the fire fighters coming out of the Dean River Fire today (over 9000 ha's) and he said it was kind of odd, because at the top end of the fire was fresh snow, while at the bottom there where still hotspots.  That pretty much describes the contradictions in weather that are the Central Coast.  I got lucky for a few moments today though and caught the picture I missed the other day of fresh snow on Mount Nusatsum.  Grizzly

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another Showery Day

Most of the day was about showers and low cloud.  Some of the showers were a little bit heavy for awhile, but it wasn't a cold day or too drenching.  I did some gardening to turn under weeds tonight and the soil is just nicely damp down deeper now with the showers we have had for the last week.  Grizzly

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


There aren't too many days in a year when the foggy heavy cloud cover is basically right down to the Bella Coola Valley bottom, but today was one such day.  Very still air this morning and very heavy with moisture.

It picked up though and at noon a pretty stiff westerly wind came in and brought a couple sunny spots, but showers were still the order of the day right into the evening.  Small green hues are starting to reappear on some of the brown areas of all the dead lawns and fields.  Grizzly

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rain all Day

Finally a steady rain in the lower Bella Coola Valley most of the day until dinner time.   It stopped raining tonight, but low valley cloud prevented any views of mountains at all today and not much for planes flying into the valley.  It's been good for the garden finally - and the weeds - everything is starting to look slightly green again.  A late August rainy period is something you should count on in the Bella Coola Valley, before we see fine September weather - I hope.  Grizzly

Monday, August 23, 2010

Snow on Mount Nusatsum

One of my goals when setting out on this blog venture was to keep people posted on weather in Bella Coola for the reason that it's an interesting place for weather because of the extremes we get - extreme heat (41 C in 2009), extreme arctic outflow winds, big rains and big snowfalls.  It's not only interesting but it affects what we do here a lot.  As residents and repeat visitors you learn to watch the weather because it can change what you want to do.  I also thought people who used to live here, might want to live here or want to visit, or maybe you live here and are away on holidays would want to know what is going on back in the "Gulch".

You'll notice when I can't come up with something more original, I can always default to a quick weather post.  Today is one of those days, too busy doing things at work, trying to get caught up  on some construction and yard projects and getting ready for some time with my adult children planning some hunting and fishing this fall.

So today was the first August day with fresh snow on Mount Nusatsum.  How fast things change from a week ago, but that's what happens this time of year.  A little weather system moves in and it's quite normal to see an icing sugar coating on the mountain.  I didn't get a picture because it was only briefly visible this morning and even though my wife apparently reminded me to take a picture -- I didn't.  I'll try to do better next time.  Grizzly

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ripe Devil's Club

August is when the berries of the lovely plant Oplopanax horridus  or Devil's Club ripen.  They make a nice show, especially when they are poking out of the dense forest along some of the streams this time of year like the one in this photo.

The attractive berries don't diminish the nastiness of this plant though, when it comes to spines and sticking in you when you accidentally grab it while scrambling up a bank. 

No significant rain in the Bella Coola Valley today, some overnight, but the day was mostly cooler with sunny and cloudy periods.  Grizzly

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weather Change

What a change a week can bring.  From last weekend in the sweltering heat to this weekend with rain showers most of the day and a high of 15 C.   It's what the weather forecast called for and it's what we needed to quell the dry spell and bring some relief to fires.  

It will take a lot more days of rain though to really wet the soil deep.  Grizzly

Friday, August 20, 2010

Patient Gulls

I checked one of the spawning tributaries of the Bella Coola River today and there are very very few chums, not the 1000's that should be there and have spawned by now.  The gulls are all being very patient along the Bella Coola River, waiting for something to happen, but it's not going to be a feast of chum salmon body parts this year.

I did talk to some river fishermen, who had extra days to fish this week - because of the road closure and the said they had hooked some nice shiny coho salmon though, so maybe we'll have another strong coho salmon year like last year, the grizzly bears will really appreciate that later this fall if they have not had their fill of chum salmon. 

We had a mostly cloudy day in the Bella Coola Valley.  The temperatures are much cooler and much more comfortable than last week.  This weekend is supposed to bring more rain.  Grizzly

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Traffic Flowing

At least on the Bella Coola end of Highway 20 things are starting to get back to normal tonight.  Apparently the fire at Heckman Pass settled down enough today to allow free passage of traffic through that area and the fires on the Alexis Creek end will have pilot cars taking vehicles through the fire zone.  Everything got moving just after 3 PM today.

It's nice to see, because the road closure is disruptive on everything including tourism businesses and families with summertime travel plans.  Now we can hope for a major season ending rainstorm and start thinking about the best month in the Bella Coola Valley - September.  Grizzly

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Crystal Clear Pacific Air

Today unfolded pretty close to the way Environment Canada called it.  The day started out calm and sunny, started to cloud over and the wind picked up in the late morning.  Around noon there was the tiniest amount of raindrops for about 2 minutes, then the wind really picked up.  It blew pretty hard most of the afternoon and evening with the Bella Coola Airport weather station showing gusts up to 58 km/h.  Then tonight it cleared right off. What it did do was blow in beautiful clear fresh air off the Pacific Ocean that just had the fresh clean late summer air smell that we take for granted in Bella Coola. 

It made for wonderful views of the mountains finally, even if we are 'trapped' behind 250 km of closed Highway, the stores have still got food, there's a few fish around, lots of stuff in the garden and we aren't burning...we've got it much better than some areas. Grizzly

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fire Fighters

Many people are aware of the serious drought conditions that exist in the Bella Coola Valley and east into the Chilcotin and Cariboo.  As of today there are no fires in the Bella Coola Valley proper.  The closest fires are to the north in the Dean River which is only accessible by ocean or air and then east of Bella Coola just past the top of the hill  past Heckman Pass which is in the West Chilcotin.  The Hwy 20/Tweedsmuir fire must be serious tonight (about 90 km east of the Bella Coola townsite, because the Drive BC website has canceled proposed Hwy 20 openings tomorrow and the Cariboo Regional District has an evacuation order in place for the village of Anahim Lake which is east and slightly south of the fire in Heckman Pass.  Over 300 residents are potentially affected by this order as well as many more residents to the east closer to Alexis Creek being affected by another order.  It's a challenging situation with the weather forecast for windy conditions tomorrow.

Watched some fire fighters departing from Bella Coola today and I had to admire their determination to try and go do something in spite of the dirty, hot, dangerous work it is.  Grizzly

Monday, August 16, 2010


Seems last night and tonight the lovely Bella Coola Valley is back to it's pre-1953 state when there was no road to Bella Coola.  Last night Highway 20 was closed  due a wildfire just east of the Heckman Pass area - very close and adjacent to last years large fire.  This one was started by lightning as well.  No real idea when it will be open - I guess when the smoke and flames clear.  The two best sites for keeping track of it are the website (click on major events) or the Central Coast Regional District website - emergency notices.  If you are looking for information on the fire then the BCwildfire website will give you some information on the fires.

At least some inflow westerly wind today cleared out a bit of smoke and made for a very pleasantly warm (31 C) day.  Grizzly

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Drought Continues

Another day of heat and smoke, and more to come.  Environment Canada's weather symbol for a smoky day is kind of cute but accurate.
Rain is what we really need right now and there seems to be  a cooling trend coming towards the end of the week.  That would help the forest fires near Bella Coola in the Dean River and in the Heckman Pass Area which are both fairly active and giving us a lot of smoke.  Grizzly

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Water Pumps

Living in a rural area usually means you get to deal with wells and water pumps in some sort of fashion.  Tonight was one of those nights, but this time it wasn't mine.  It was a neighbor who had 5 guests in the house and the water pump quit -- not a good scenario.  I did a quick diagnosis and determined that the amount of time and parts to get it up and running would be well past the evening 'bathroom' hour.  We decided to do something I had to do once in a similar predicament.  We ran hoses from a neighbors house, used a female to female adapter to join the garden hoses to each other and presto - the whole house is recharged with water from the neighbors.  Not good enough to drink from (drinking from garden hoses is a bad idea if you ever look at the crap that can come out of a garden hose that has been sitting in the sun), but it sure got the toilets up and running again until the plumber and parts can be found.

While I'm on the subject, the Bella Coola Valley has about 5 different small water purveyors that provide water to residents from either wells or in one case Snootli Creek.  The main area of Hagensborg, Nusatsum the Nuxalk Village, and the village of Bella Coola all have nice water systems, but if you live anywhere outside those areas, then you are on your own.

Wow it was another hot smoky day in the valley reaching 32 C, with smoke of varying intensities throughout the day.  It did clear up enough last night, that we got to see a few Perseid meteor stragglers, which was a nice bonus.  Grizzly

Friday, August 13, 2010


It was another hot day in the Bella Coola Valley.  The high was 35 C (95 F).  Most of the smoke that came in last night cleared out for the day, but this evening it seems to have settled back in.  More hot days on the way.  Grizzly

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Blue Sky to Smoky Sky

While it was another beautiful, windy, hot sunny day, at around 6 PM a wave of smoke from distant forest fires blew into the eastern end of the Bella Coola Valley.  There must have been slight outflow winds above 5000 feet because it was still blowing westerly wind when the smoke blew over from the east. Unfortunately some clouds formed or showed up about the same time which is going to make viewing the Perseid meteor shower very challenging in the Bella Coola Valley - it's already difficult enough star gazing in the valley because of the narrow field of view we have due to the high mountains, but it appears what's left of the sky tonight won't be too helpful for viewing.  Grizzly

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Straight Forward Weather

It's easy to talk about the weather in the Bella Coola Valley, when it's blue sky from sun up to sun down and temperatures in the high 20's (C), with the next six days showing the same.  But that's what we have and it will really help bring along the garden.  Canning operations for wax and green beans have peaked all ready and we are now looking to give some of our garden beans away.  It really hurts in the winter when you are craving fresh green beans and you think about all the ones in the summer you couldn't eat.  Grizzly

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August Dew

In a normal year it seems to me that as soon as August 1st comes along, it's like a switch was turned and you wake up on a clear morning to heavy dew.  I didn't notice it so much this year until this morning.  The dew was so heavy this morning it took windshield wipers to clear it off.  It's good for the gardens and the dry conditions we are experiencing this summer - it really helps to slow the potential for forest fires. 

The rest of the week is supposed to get really hot again, how much dew we get to help the moisture levels will depend on whether we get the dry outflow wind in the early morning.  Grizzly

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Smoky Summer of 1922

I read a great book last winter, "Surveying Central British Columbia, A Photojournal of Frank Swannell, 1920-28", by Jay Sherwood.  It's a great book about one of BC's great surveyors, Frank Swannell.  In this book Sherwood documents Swannell's years of surveying the area of BC from Bella Coola to Smithers in the North out to Williams Lake in the east.  His photos of the period are especially important as they show his activities, his gear, their clothing, camps, incredible shots of the First Nations he encountered fishing and drying fish and the general environment and geography he worked in.  I'm certain some of his photos would be extremely useful to people researching glacial issues or the encroachment of forests into alpine areas in the past 90 years for example.

His survey method depended solely on the method of surveying known as triangulation - establish known points usually on mountain tops in this area, then going to another mountain top far away but so they could still see back to the mountain top cairns and carefully take angle shots which could be used to calculate distances (basic trigonometry I believe).  What struck me at the time I read it was the summer of 1922.  Starting in mid June and going throughout the summer they repeatedly noted the difficulty or even some days impossibility of taking shots of distant mountains after climbing all day due to smoke from forest fires.

While working near the Nechako River on July 3, 1922 he wrote, "Heavy wind & forest fires burst into dense smoke again, the sun showing through as an orange coloured disk".  Later on July 26th, "Fine but very smoky & had to abandon reading signals by early afternoon. Fires everywhere from Alkatcho to Ootsa".

Even into the end of August he was still making notes about the smoke, fires and "burnt areas with no water".  It must have been a miserable summer in his line of work, but I can't help but think about the summer of 2010 and many conclusions being reached about the severity of the fires in BC and what it might mean for a trend because we've had 3-4 weeks of smoky conditions in the province which we are not used to and how quick the media and others are to portray this as a unique event.  It seems like we've had some bad summers before and we can likely expect lots more.  If you are in Bella Coola do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of his book at Kopas Store - save it for the long winter nights, you won't regret it.   Grizzly

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cooler and Windy

Today seems like one of those weather transition days when big winds blow something else into the Central Coast.  It only got to 22 C in the valley and was quite windy most of the day.  Environment Canada suggests the weather is going to improve as the week goes and get a little warmer again.  Grizzly

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Running the Gauntlet

Had to make a quick trip today to Williams Lake to pick up a family member.  On and off all this last week, portions of Highway 20 nearer to the Williams Lake side have had road closures and detours due to wildfires, so we weren't sure what to expect. 

We were happy that some showers in the last few days and westerly winds cleared most of the smoke out of the Chilcotin west of Redstone, but after that, early this morning it was smokey.  There's a lot of new blackened areas west of Bull Canyon, and quite a bit of fencing is going to need replacing, but most of the active fire next to Highway 20 has moved off and as you see in this photo, it's just black with a few smokers. There will be a lot less dead pine trees to burn in the Chilcotin after this summer.  The air was much cleaner and the usual fine views available this evening in the Chilcotin.

We had some pretty good rain in the Bella Coola Valley last night finally, freshened things up pretty nice and hopefully keeps the fire hazard down.  Grizzly

Friday, August 6, 2010

Potato Range

Last weekend while at Tatlayoko Lake (3 hours from Bella Coola in the Chilcotin, south of Tatla Lake), we did a day hike in the southern end of the mountains called Potato Range.  They lay along the east side of Tatlayoko Lake.  There is a north end trail and and a south end trail.  We accessed them from the south end trail by using the trail that starts at Bracewell's Alpine Wilderness Adventures.  The people at the lodge were kind enough to point out the way for us.  After about 3 hours we were in the alpine and had wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.
The Potato Range are old and have fossils in many areas that are easy to find.  The Potato Range are so named because they are a source of harvesting small tubers from a plant that the First Nations in the area use.  It would be nice to spend about three days hiking the Potato Range next time. Grizzly

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Not the Great Smoky Mountains

If the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the US was actually smoky, I suppose it might look like Mount Nusatsum (8448 ft) in the Bella Coola Valley today.  It sounds like most of the Province of BC looks somewhat similiar to our area.  All the smoke in the air is  from forest fires to the east in the Chilcotin/Cariboo regions as some of the interior air is spilling out over the coast.

Finally a tiny bit of rain today.  There were a few sprinkles after lunch, then a very fine light rain in the evening, not enough to soak in, but certainly kept the temperature comfortable. Grizzly

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tatlayoko Lake Fish

While we were camping at Tatlayoko Lake last weekend,  my wife and I with our feet cooling in the crystal clear waters of Tatlayoko Lake (in the Chilcotin south and slightly east of Tatla Lake BC), the kids were fishing using the canoe.  They lost a few and caught three beauties.  My adult daughter is addicted to fishing, it turns out, and always wants to make "just one more cast", I seem to recall that line from my father.  Persistence pays off though and they produced some nice rainbow trout.  

It was a Bella Coola Valley cooker of a day today, with most of the afternoon at 35 C and super humid again, might as well be in southern Ontario with weather like this.  Grizzly

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tatlayoko Lake

On the long weekend we went camping to Tatlayoko Lake.  It's about a 3 hour drive east of Bella Coola into the Chilcotin, turn at Tatla Lake another half hour on a good gravel road takes you to the north end of the Lake.  Our adult son met us there and we also had our adult daughter who is home from University for the summer.  It was just like old times camping.  We camped at the north east end at the Forest Service rec site.  It's just off the gravel road in amongst the big old Douglas Fir trees.  There are only 5 sites with picnic tables, but lots of room for others.  It's an incredible setting.  The very north end of the lake is at the eastern side of the Coast Mountains, while 22 km later the southern end is well into the coast mountains.  A number of years ago the Nature Conservancy of Canada purchased the ranch at the north end of the Lake and is now set aside for natural processes.

We spent a couple nights enjoying the setting (minus the smoke from forest fires which was quite thick on Saturday), fishing and hiking in the Potato Mountain Range - more on both of those in a later post.  Tatlayoko Lake is a lot like North Bentinck Arm and Burke Channel, on a summer day soon after the sun starts heating the air, the interior draws air in from the coast and in this case through the Homathko River valley (Bute Inlet) and the lake can become windy and dangerous for fishing quickly if you are not paying attention.  We were lucky this last weekend, the winds were moderate.

To the east of Bella Coola last night we had a lightning storm and finally got some rain for a short intense period.  I got about 10 mm of rain at my place in a short period and we watched lightning east of us for about an hour.  Don't know if more fires started.  At 33 c at 5 PM at the Bella Coola Airport with pretty high humidity, it was a summer day for sure. Grizzly

Monday, August 2, 2010


We took a short trip this long weekend to the Chilcotin for some family camping.  While we had beautiful weather where we were and more hot, sunny and windy weather in Bella Coola, there was lightning on Saturday night in the Chilcotin and some again tonight can be heard in the distance.  Unfortunately on the way home we could see a new fire burning a few kilometres from Highway 20 on the north side in Tweedsmuir Park, not far from last years Heckman Pass fire.  Hopefully there is some rain in the storm tonight to the east to help the situation in the Chilcotin where a number of fires are burning. Grizzly

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Chum Salmon

In early July I wrote a post about the fishing fleet and the first weeks of the chum fishery.  There was some nervousness then about the early low numbers of chum salmon showing in the gillnet fishery, but it usually takes till past the middle of July to tell the story.

We are now at the end of the month and it seems like the chum run is returning in very low numbers to the Bella Coola River and the spawning tributaries, there has been very limited commercial fisheries and closures.  I'm hearing that there will likely be no more now that numbers are not showing.  Too bad, it's the second year in a row that the chum salmon return has been very low.  Grizzly