Mt. Nusatsum

Mt. Nusatsum

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - Year in Review

Happy New Year from the Bella Coola Valley!  It's been an historic year for Bella Coola with the wild weather.  Hopefully 2011 finds us 'not in the news'!

To wrap up 2010 I thought I'd pick out a photo and post from each month of 2010 from so you can scan through the year.  Happy New Year.  Grizzly





Thursday, December 30, 2010

Clear December Air

We enjoyed another beautiful day in the Bella Coola Valley with morning temperatures in the -8 to -10 C range and very little wind.  The Cathedral Point weather station in Burke Channel is experiencing some outflow wind, but luckily for us it's very calm, crisp and cool.  Classic December days in the Bella Coola Valley.  Grizzly

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Beauty Day

Today the weather in the Bella Coola Valley was perfect.  Crystal clear blue skies, -6 C this morning and no wind.  The fresh snow from the last few days was hanging in all the trees and the air still and calm.  We had one more day of family time before adult children start returning to their places so we spent the day hiking along the Atnarko River.  We checked out the area along what is known as the "Tote Road", it's a rough dirt/gravel/rock road about 11 km long that starts right at the bottom of "The Hill" on Highway 20.  It goes along the Atnarko River and Valley upstream to the confluence of the Hotnarko River.  Normally it's a beautiful walk in the winter,  drive or bike ride in the summer, because you are going along the spectacular stetting of the Atnarko River and often see bears and other wildlife.  It's a rough ride, but now it's not accessible.  After the Great Flood of 2010, where Young Creek crosses the road about 1 km in, there are two bridges completely blown out and several hundred metres of road missing.  The alluvial fan of the outflow of Young Creek dramatically changed the landscape, so for the time being at least the "Tote Road" is not drivable.  Hopefully it gets fixed because it's a real treasure of an area and it accesses some important hiking areas like the Hunlen Falls Trail.  Grizzly

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The snow storm that passed through the Bella Coola Valley on Monday and Tuesday resulted in 10-15 cm of snow.  Closer to 10 cm near the airport and more like 15 cm further up the valley.  It was pretty today, but no real patches of blue sky to see the full fresh load of snow on the mountains.  Temperatures are mostly up and down from 0 C and things seem pretty stable and quiet.  Grizzly

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holly in the Snow

We have several Holly bushes that we have been slowly nursing along for more than 10 years now.  My wife wanted to have the red berries for Christmas things.  It took about 7 or 8 years for one of them to finally produce berries, first a few then the next few years big crops.  Unfortunately for my wife, the robins also took a liking to the Holly berries and in spite of numerous tricks like netting and yelling at the robins endlessly we are sadly left with no Holly berries to admire by Christmas.

Today the tree is getting a nice dusting of snow.  In our end of the Bella Coola Valley we have had light but steady snow most of the very early morning before daylight and through the day.  Environment Canada has  a 20 to 30 cm snowfall warning for the Bella Coola Valley today and tomorrow.  It was a pleasant day.  Grizzly

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

Heckman Pass Snow Gauge today 2 feet
The last 10 years or so for our family on Boxing Day usually means we go to the East Branch Ski Hill for a little family day.  It's a tiny local ski hill with a handle bar tow.  It's kind of fun though because it's in Tweedsmuir Park, it's in the Chilcotin Plateau and it's almost always beautiful there with lots of sun. Usually all the kids who are away at places of higher learning, and other kids who have started their own lives and come home to see Ma and Pa, usually end up at the ski hill on Boxing Day.  Unfortunately this year for the first time in quite a few years there wasn't enough snow to open the hill, there is only a base of about 70-80 cm and we need a bit more to cover the more 'rugged' pieces of our hill.  We did something pretty fun though which was to go down the road another 5 km and take part in X-country skiing.  Another group of hard working loyal volunteers keep up to 30 km of trails all groomed and in top shape.  So far they only have about 5 or 10 km of trails worked out, again because of low snow and small lakes with overflow on the ice happening.  Still it was a nice day,  we each took turns XC skiing on our two pairs of XC skis while the other two snowshoed on two pairs of snowshoes.  The snowshoeing was brutal, 2 feet of soft snow and you went right through right to the base.

It was good family day though I could tell.  I drove home by myself while the other three people and the dog all napped in the truck!  Grizzly

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Weather

A Christmas eve of snow showers gave way to a Christmas morning rain shower in parts of the Bella Coola Valley.  While we weren't able to get a view of any of the mountain tops to see how much fresh snow came down, I think it's been quite a bit, because you could catch a glimpse of the snow line which seemed to be around 3000' today and there was a good amount of precipitation last night and this morning.  I heard several avalanches rumbling in the background out of the clouds which is always a good sign of lots of wet deep snow.  A good day for a hike along the river and lots of relaxing and family time.  Hope you enjoyed a nice Christmas day.  Grizzly

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

From the snowy Bella Coola Valley - a Merry Christmas wherever you are and whatever climate you are enjoying.    Our was very wet and rainy for half the day, but then it turned to snow, not sure if it will keep up or what kind of a white Christmas we will have, but daylight will tell.  Grizzly

Thursday, December 23, 2010


While most of the day was quite pleasant in the Bella Coola Valley today, there was a definite warming trend in the afternoon with the Bella Coola Airport reaching a high of 6 C.  We we haven't seen warm temperatures like that since the middle of November.  Tonight though for awhile we are catching the edge of the Pacific storm hitting further south on the coast and seeing a pretty decent rain.  It should make for some good snow pack in the mountains - we need some more in our part of the Coast Mountains.  Grizzly

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Snow Shower

Another day of nice temperatures at 0 C and just below.  For awhile the upper valley got a brief snow shower that left a centimetre or two in the snowy Nusatsum area, but only a wisp elsewhere.  The Bella Coola River is low, but still not clear.  Grizzly

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rink Time

We have had steady below freezing temperature for quite a few days in the Bella Coola Valley, with no snow or rain.  Bella Coola has no indoor ice, but these are ideal conditions for the small outdoor ice rink which is operated and maintained by Recreation Commission and numerous volunteers who get out in the freezing cold east wind and get it flooded so that everyone can use it.    That's where my son went who came home for Christmas from places with no shortages of indoor ice, but the appeal of playing hockey with the guys under poor lights, with the wind blowing and the odd fir tree branch landing on the ice was too appealing to miss.  The rink is located just west of the bridge crossing Snootli Creek on Highway 20.   

We hope you enjoyed the lunar eclipse where you were last night.  When it started we had poor visibility due to thin cloud, but then just before total eclipse the cloud completely disappeared and we enjoyed watching it go into totality, then the orange phase and clear views as it started to come out.  Normally Bella Coola is a terrible place to practice celestial gazing  - it seems it is always cloudy when we get an 'event' or the high mountains limit our horizon too much.  Last night we got lucky. Grizzly

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chilcotin River

It was only in early August 2010, that this very scene in this photo would have had the smoke over the land.  While driving Highway 20 to Williams Lake the smoke from forest fires burning in pockets of forest along the right hand side of the river in the photo were burning almost right to the river.  Now 4 months later, that all seems in the distant past and the calm cold winter scene prevails with the winter river mist hanging over the river from the warmer water in the -15 C weather the day we drove out.  This location is along Highway 20 at Bull Canyon, about 4 hours from Bella Coola if you are driving to Williams Lake.   

Another cold and mostly clear day in the Bella Coola Valley with temperatures in the -5 or -6 C.  Grizzly

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Coho - Evidence

With a full blown Arctic outflow now back in the Bella Coola Valley the temperature was a bit cool this morning (-6 C) with breezy outflow winds steady at 20 km/h and lots of bigger gusts.  Burke Channel at Cathedral Point is blowing the usual 90 km/h.

We took a stroll along one of the valley creeks today, in a less windy location to see what was going on.  Apart from old frozen bear tracks, there were numerous eagles perched in low and tight on the small creek.  It didn't take long to find evidence of what they had been up to with the fresh blood and fins of a coho on the bank.  It's a good thing the coho came in late, at least some fish will survive the Great Flood of 2010 and provide a bit of food for the eagles in otherwise bleak fall for them.  Grizzly

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Iron Bacteria

It didn't take long after the some of the tributary streams to the Bella Coola River were freshly scoured this fall for the nice clean gravel to be covered by the iron consuming bacteria that produces a red slime.  It's very common and widespread in Bella Coola because we have streams with high iron content in the water.  It shows well in the winter time and especially after a stream bed has been cleaned out after a flood. 

Today in the Bella Coola Valley we have outflow (east winds) blowing again.  While so far the temperatures aren't at "Arctic outflow" levels, tonight it is in the -2 C range and gusty.  Grizzly

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Dikes

The photo today shows a short section of repaired dike done in September after the Great Flood of 2010.  In this location the Bella Coola River reached the top the of dike and scoured it until  a short section washed out.  The rock for the dike comes from the nearby Klonnik Creek rock pit.  It's very hard granite and the way it breaks when they blast and quarry it makes ideal rock for dike structures.  Grizzly

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sleepy Bella Coola River

Three months after the Great Flood of 2010 and the Bella Coola River looks like a sleepy coastal stream today.  It's in the winter time mode, with low flows, eagles perched waiting for the chance at late coho and red breasted mergansers always on the prowl for an insect, egg or a fish fry.  What's different this year, is the colour is still being affected by silt or changes that have happened in the watershed from the flood.  The Atnarko River, which contributes less than half the flow where the Talchako and Atnarko merge, is still coloured with silt or glacial water that may be entering it from the upper sources.  It will take the winter to determine if the change is temporary or the result of changes at the headwaters where glacial runoff feeder streams that sometimes flow into the Klinklini River can divert at the headwaters and sometimes feed the normally clear Atnarko River.

We are having more nice stable December cool weather, temperatures just above and below 0 C and very light outflow winds.  Maybe we will get a little more snow just in time for Christmas.  Grizzly

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Clear Skies

This morning valley cloud gave way to mostly clear skies in the afternoon and then a nice frosty starry evening in the Bella Coola Valley today.  Temperatures were in the 0 to 2-3 C range.  Grizzly

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Paper Birch

Paper birch or Betula papyrifera is a reasonably common tree in our Bella Coola Valley transition climate from coast to interior.  They are just an all around beautiful tree and we are so fortunate to have them intermixed in the early succession deciduous stands of trees in the valley.  This time of year they are not much to look at except for the bark which is always pleasing.  One thing I like to do is find an old one on a clear blue sky day and look up, you can really see how the branches grow first one way, then turn and grow for a few years the other way, making a zig-zag branch formation.  Grizzly

Monday, December 13, 2010

Squirrel Cache

We have a large western red cedar (Thuja plicata) tree out by itself in our yard.  If you are not from British Columbia, then you may not know that western red cedar is also the provincial tree of BC.  On the coast of BC and in a few other locations in the interior of the province,  the western red cedars are an abundant and incredible tree for the quality of the lumber they produce and the variety of products First Nations used them tree for, from the bark for clothing to the wood for carving and houses.

In our yard, a red squirrel has claimed our tree the last few years.  I`m sure he or she sees it as their own exclusive domain.  This summer the tree produced a massive cone crop - whether it was due to happen or was influenced by the near drought conditions we had, the tree was laden with the small 1 cm cones.  Starting in late August the squirrel began the harvest and at first we thought it was natural dropping of the tips of the branches with cones, but then every day the carpet of chewed off tips started to accumulate on the ground.  One day I went to look for something under the tree.   I keep a few boards standing up against the trunk because the tree provides so much weather protection that even in a fall rain, you can put something up against the trunk and it stays relatively dry.   I realized that the tips of the branches which he had been harvesting and dropping on the ground had been gradually picked up and were now piled against the base of the tree in the large flutes the trunk creates.  Somehow he had accomplished all this without raising the ire of our Lab/Chesapeake cross dog that lays in her dog house 20 metres away and occasionally gets the energy to go over and chase the squirrel back up the tree.

Now there is a  nice winter food supply that he can come down whenever he wants and he must be well aware that no matter how much snow we get the base of this 40 metre tall tree will never be under any snow.  Grizzly

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Low Cloud

In the west end of the Bella Coola Valley today, there was barely a glimmer that there were even mountains around us.  It was that kind of day where there was no wind and the clouds hung low in the valley.  Morning snow showers gave way to afternoon rain showers.  Not much else to say about this grey day.  Grizzly

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Road Widening

 If you've driven Highway 20 into Bella Coola then "The Hill" is an integral part of that trip.  It's a piece of road about 20 kms long that winds and switches its way from Heckman Pass at 5200' down into the Atnarko River Valley at 800 feet.  For a number a years a piece near where the "bulldozers met" on one of the narrowest rock cut portions has been slowly getting narrower (at least my wife insists that every time we drive it).  This fall with a lot of big machinery available some work has been done to improve that situation a little bit, so next spring and summer look forward to that piece around where the sign is at commemorating the meeting of the bulldozers from the top and bottom in 1953 to be just a little bit better.  

Our weather in the Bella Coola Valley today was bland.  There was a uniform thick cloud cover all day, no precipitation of any significance and a high temperature of 1 C  bouncing up and down between 0 C an 1 C. Grizzly

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Mixed Cool Week

Most of the week in the Bella Coola has been in the 0 to plus 3 or 4 C range with various periods of mixed rain and snow.  Lots of icy driveways and a bit of compact snow on the highway in places.  Some good progress is being made on Highway 20 - "The Hill" on the section that is only one vehicle width wide where they are shaving a bit of rock off to make it just a touch wider.   We are moving into the more stable period of December weather that typically happens later in the month.  Grizzly

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Douglas Fir Cones

Back in late April I posted about Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and the young seed cones that were just in the flowering stage then.  It was a good summer for trees producing cones in the Bella Coola Valley.  What made it good was the dry, near drought conditions that stressed the coniferous trees.  They usually produce a good cone crop when they have had stressful conditions, something about spurring a plant to want to propagate itself when it is under stress and make sure you produce some offspring.

This is the time of the year when these cones are drying out and breaking apart with seeds getting dispersed by the wind.  Squirrels also do a pretty good job at piling up the caches of cones for later consumption.  Grizzly

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Partial Albino Robin

I was looking through my photos the other day and I realized I forgot on the morning of the Great Flood of 2010, we looked out on our lawn (before the tide of river water came up) and noticed a strange bird. It was initially on it's own and while just standing there was hard to figure out exactly what it was.  Once it started listening and pulling worms and generally behaving like a Robin,  then it joined a small group of other robins I realized it was a Robin.  It's a 'piebald' or partial albino.  A quick check on Google suggests they are not that rare, but it's the first one I've seen in the Bella Coola Valley.  I hope it survived the flood. Sorry the picture isn't great, there was too much rain coming down at the time...Grizzly

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain (2664 metres or 8740 feet) is an impressive mass of rock - not that we have a shortage of impressive mountains in the Bella Coola Valley, but Thunder Mountain is on it's own.  It is located on the east side of Noosgulch River about 10 km up the Noosgulch valley  (52°33'10.86"N, 126°22'13.19"W ).  There are few places you can catch a view of it now that you can't drive the Noosgulch Forest Service Road (damage from floods), but up in the Rainbow Mountains when you get high enough and look west it is pretty prominent.  The only really good look you can get of it from down in the Bella Coola Valley is from the bridge over the Bella Coola River on Highway 20 about 35 km east of the townsite of Bella Coola.

This photo was one I took from the bridge a couple of weeks ago and it doesn't really do it justice, because it's so massive.  The back side of the mountain (east side) which you can't see from Bella Coola is really impressive with it's glacier (Tzeetsaytsul Glacier) coming off adjacent Tzeetsaytsul Peak and massive rock faces. The back side also has a pecular brown or rose coloured small lake, that derives it's colour from the pulverized rock in the glacial melt.   I've hiked behind it and you can hear the "Thunder" when you are up there which is the glacier moving.  The first climbing ascent was in 1965 by the Whitmores of California. Grizzly

Monday, December 6, 2010


A lot of fences in the Bella Coola Valley were submerged during the Great Flood of 2010.  If they were wooden or page wire, then chances are they were badly damaged or they might have even caused the owner some problems by holding back some unwanted water.   Some like the one in this photo, just got a lot of leaves and some wood caught, but not much else happened.  Fences that ran at right angles to the river in pastures and through the woods took the worst beating as they acted as dams to catch leaves and logs.  It was good thing the Great Flood of 2010 in September wasn't a few weeks later - there would have been a lot more fresh leaves that would have caused blocked culverts and more fence damage.  Grizzly

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Revamped Thorsen Creek

Thorsen Creek, the first large tributary stream to the east of the village of Bella Coola has had dikes on both sides for many years.  It's an ongoing problem after every major flood event.  The September 25/26 Great Flood of 2010 dealt a final blow when it brought down ten's of thousands of cubic metres of fresh gravel bedload.  Emergency officials have had no choice but to remove the gravel.  Thorsen Creek is a good chum salmon spawning area, but the extreme flood and movement of gravel destroyed most of what spawned.    The remedial work has been done as careful as possible to accommodate any surviving fish eggs and any new fish have been moved to the local Snootli Creek Hatchery.

It's a tough situation, but they are doing the best they can with the situation.  When they are finished we can look forward to seeing those big beautiful coloured chum salmon spawning again in early August in this creek next summer hopefully. Grizzly

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Creek Work

After the Great Flood of 2010, a number of the side tributary streams coming into the Bella Coola River had extremely high gravel bedload deposits.  These streams were diked on one or both sides many years ago and so become a management issue to keep them contained and the channel free enough of gravel to handle floods.

aka "Klonnik Creek"
Periodically, every 5-10 years they need to have gravel removed and after a flood like 2010 they need a lot removed.  The work is being done to protect any new fish coming into spawn by diverting water and moving fish.  Any of the salmon spawn deposited before September 25 was likely either dislodged or under 2 metres or more of gravel.  The cold weather helps in one way because the water is so low, but makes it hard as well because of the frozen ground.

Today the weather and temperature in the Bella Coola Valley didn't contribute to any ground thaw, with the morning temperature -6 C in the lower valley and -10 C in the upper valley.  Grizzly

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Highways

Well, it's actually the old Highway 20 through Central Hagensborg, but as of today it has new asphalt!  A heroic job has been done by crews to get the highway and infrastructure restored in the Bella Coola Valley since the Great Flood of 2010 on September 25.  They've struggled with weather the last while with snow and cold, but today over 1 km of the highway in middle Hagensborg is entirely re-paved.  The highway suffered a great deal of damage during the flood and now has been largely fixed.

Today was really a spectacular day in the Bella Coola Valley, just below 0 C this morning, then clearing nicely throughout the morning.  The end of the day was clear skies, fresh snow on all the mountains and now -4 C this evening.  A Bella Coola December day.  Grizzly
A Perfect Day!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How Much Snow?

We had a little bit of snow again in the Bella Coola Valley last night - maybe 2 or 3 cm, but it stayed near 0 C and above all day.  There were some nice blue patches with really good views of all the fresh snow on the mountains, but I opted for this sultry picture looking up Snootli Creek Valley today.  The cloud and light was intermixed with a bit of wood burning smoke coming from the Klonnik rock pit - just a wee bit east of Snootli.   The Kloonik rock pit is an important place these days - people and machines have been toiling away since late September clearing, drilling and blasting beautiful whitish hard granite.  It's the source of rock for the repairs to the dikes in the valley that were damaged in the Great Flood of 2010.

How much snow have you got?  That question must get asked in Canada in the winter time more than any other when you talk to people at work in other places and family and friends across the country. It's also a prime reason why I write the bellacoolablog, to keep readers up on that topic for the Bella Coola Valley.  The only hard part is that there is such a range in the valley, you can never give one answer!  But here it is for today.  About 1" or so in town, less than 2" in Hagensborg, about 3-4" in the Nusatsum area and upper valley.  Grizzly

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cloud Layers

Another day of low cloud, no wind, rain showers in the lower Bella Coola Valley and snow showers in the upper valley.  These kinds of days aren't very inspiring and don't show off the spectacular beauty of the valley very well, but they do remind us of the our connection to the coastal life style, where you can't expect blue skies and mountain views every day!  Grizzly