The month prior to solstice 2019 was very mild. Only dribbles of snow fell and fog was present for at least half of most days, sometimes all of them. It usually stayed below freezing – sometimes we would wake to -5C – and daytime temps would be -4C. The kind of nothing weather one expects in November.Hoar frost built up, and the rare gleams of sun picked it out.Often the mountains were hidden but a bit of light lit up the cottonwood trees beside the river.And once we had a fiery sunset.Half way through December, Tatla Lake School hosted its annual Santa Breakfast. This is always a well-attended event. Seniors were encouraged to line up first – but as 3/4 of the local population are senior this didn’t help much!After brunch, the kids gave a concert. Only 12 were present – the other 4 pupils were away.It was a perfect number to perform The Twelve Days of Christmas.The two “French hens” are my new neighbours’ children, both of whom started school this September.Then of course, along came Santa. He didn’t even have to wear a beard!
We had the odd dribble of snow and the ground has stayed white, but there are only about 8 cm (3″). As always, when the Solstice draws near, I kept an eye out fo a tree – one that would be destroyed anyway. This time I used the top of a green pine that had blown down in the big wind of October. The upper part poked into my road. I could see it was bushy, but the low snow hid the fact that it was loaded with cones.So for the last couple of weeks of its existence, it will look pretty again.
Friends at Stuix invited me and Angie, a Coast resident with a cabin at the lake across the road, to a Solstice dinner and bird count in the Bella Coola Valley. We met at the top of the Bella Coola Hill where there are a couple of ski cabins.The snow up there was over knee deep, the sky was blue. What luck to find such gorgeous weather.The forest we skied through had been burned – either 2009 or 2010 I think.It had obviously been foggy a lot up here, too, and frost crystals had grown in shady places.It wasn’t all that cold, but fog hovered and Harry got frosty eyebrows.All too soon, long shadows crept across the meadow.And as the sun went down, the fog rose.Under winter conditions, it would take about an hour to reach Stuix. At the top of the Bella Coola Hill, the upper trees were still lit. You can just see a bit of Highway 20 winding round the hill. At the bottom, the river still held a bit of the sky’s light.Stuix had received a dump of snow about a week before. My friends had needed two days to dig themselves out. However, thaws had reduced it to a bit over ankle deep, both crunchy and slushy, so a bit of a slog to get through. Once again we were blessed with excellent weather although water vapour made everything hazy. Angie, my temporary Kleena Kleene neighbour, and I were partnered – her ears are much sharper than mine but I know the valley and the birds better. Birds counts must be within 25 km of a central point. We started at Burned Bridge on the lower boundary of Tweedsmuir Park, the spot where Alexander McKenzie apparently arrived in the valley to find a large community that he dubbed “Friendly Village.” Absolutely no sign of it now.Next spot was McCalls Flats where a sturdy logging bridge crosses the Bella Coola River.Here is Angie. The sun was bright on the north side of the valley (where goats reside in winter) but not much hit the valley bottom.Further up valley was a viewpoint that was new since I had last been down there. A lovely spot to watch the river.Back to Stuix for lunch. Some parts of the Bella Coola Valley never feel sun for 4 months, but Stuix gets an hour or so of tree-filtered gleams on the shortest days.Angie and I both wanted to get home before dark – we would have cabins to warm up – and we climbed back up The Hill after lunch.Strong afternoon light was already shining on the snow at the top.The next day was the 22nd and, this year, the shortest. The sunset was clear and, looking at it, I have the satisfaction that we’ve made it through another solar year. The sunset point will travel across the horizon as the days grow longer.
My 2019 newsletter is on the newsletter page of my website. You make access it here if you wish.