Happy Corona Equinox

Well, what a situation we are in this happy corona equinox! I have volunteers lined up to come. Some neighbours are horrified that I would bring outsiders onto the Chilcotin, but these are young, strong, healthy individuals who are very unlikely to have brushed shoulders with infected people. I can bring them here with every precaution; it is then not at all difficult for us stay isolated for two weeks. Problem is getting enough food – and toilet paper – for them. The situation is a bit like the 2017 fires, where we were cut off from stores for 2 months. As at that time, I have enough food for myself for quite a while. But in 2017, it was summer and I had the garden. Right now everything is still covered in a solid bank of snow. And feeding 4 hungry, hard-working young people is a whole different ball game than feeding myself. The nearest store at Nimpo Lake kept the food trucks going all through the fire and they have vowed to do the same at this time. So we’ll see how it goes.

By mid February the sun was soaring over middle mountain.

One morning, when it was still almost dark, I was astounded to see a strange creature on my deck.

Too big for a marten – too small for an otter. It was a fisher.

He was very interested in the suet, but couldn’t reach it. Fishers are not that uncommon in this area, but they are very shy and rarely seen. Lone Pine’s: The Mammals of British Columbia states: “a sighting is a once-in-a-lifetime” event, but I have encountered maybe half a dozen – one of them dead on the road. The book continues by saying that fishers are denizens of “deep, untouched wilderness” and decline rapidly when their habitat is breached. Our forests have been horribly ravaged by logging, fire, and disease, and yet fishers still exist. However, having one come up onto my deck was unprecedented. I boasted to the neighbourhood – and found that another person – an hour’s drive away – had two come onto their deck. They are top carnivores, and I suspect their diet of small rodents has been compromised due to the thicker than usual snow level with its solid layer of ice underneath. Maybe Bob (the tail-less squirrel – who is still visiting regularly and seems perfectly healthy – received his/er affliction that way.

Since the middle of January, helicopters have juddered back and forth over Finger Peak. Bella Coola Helisports, situated in the Bella Coola Valley, have so many clients that they’ve commandeered other resorts. These tourists are staying at Christoph and Corinne’s Terra Nostra Guest Ranch across the highway.

The twice daily noise was a bit irritating, but it made for some dramatic photography.

On March 1, the Bella Coola Ski Race was held near the top of the Bella Coola Hill. There has been a lot of snow up there!

I just went to visit and eat the pot luck goodies! But my friends competed and Harry loved the attention.

The younger competitors.

Here’s my friend, Katie, after two rounds of 7k each – she went on to complete a third. She likes to wear her age as her competition number.

We had another snowfall, this one with a very strong, gusty wind. March was coming in like a lion.

The storm lasted three days.

When it cleared a bit, I thought it time to make my first shopping trip to Williams Lake since the end of November last year. I left, as usual, in the dark – big surprise, the highway was dry and bare the whole way. It was hot in town, and I left mid afternoon, half asleep after my 3.00:am awakening (really 2.00:am – the clocks had just changed!). I’m usually pretty good about observing speed limits in built up areas, but I was just not concentrating. A sunny, warm afternoon is when the cops are active. I got my first ever speeding ticket. The young man was a bit annoyed that I had taken his picture but it was such and event I felt I had to record it!

As I drove west, I could not help but notice a wall of cloud ahead. (There is a great deal less snow on the east Chiclotin.)

Pretty at this distance, but when I drove under it I was immediately swallowed by another nasty, windy snowstorm. Apparently it had been going all day. No more than a few centimetres had collected on the ground, but the highway was super slick.

Then, at last, we started to get some better weather. I had tried to break trail a couple of times on snowshoes, but it was such hard work with two layers of ice, I had not got very far. Now, however, it was easier to walk on, and for the first time this winter I was able to get up onto the north dunes.

There is no trail, but I had always headed for a dramatic dead tree as a marker for this high point. But it has succumbed.

On Mar 9th the first spring migrant arrived. Redwing blackbird.

That more or less coincided with the full moon.

The clear sunny weather meant colder nights, and for 2 consecutive days it got down to -28C, which is quite chilly for mid March. On one of these days, our “voluntary fire service” met at the Tatla lake Hall. Christoph (of the Terra Nostra Guest Ranch) fought fires for 35 years in Switzerland. He is the president of our Fire Cache group, and through the winter he managed to secure a $50,000 grant from the Red Cross to provide equipment for seven different caches spread about one and half hours’ drive from east to west, and an hour’s drive south. (The square boxes are hoses.)

We have no fire truck, but as well as the equipment pictured, we will have 200-gallon tanks that fit onto the back of a pickup. A lot of us already have much of this stuff at home. One of these caches is for Kleena Kleene. We will not be fighting forest fires unless they are threatening our properties. Even though our communication is difficult (no cell phones here and not a lot of land lines. And those of us that have computer phones don’t sit in front of the screen all day) we can still get mobilized a couple of hours before Forestry gets to us and that makes a lot of difference – as I know from my own experience last Easter. (The man in the green hat is Christoph.)

In between all the stuff going on, I completed the last painting I will do this winter. It is another big one, based on a high point near Nuk Tessli. Unless I hire a helicopter, I will never get up there again except in my mind.

And now the weather has warmed again. Still chilly at night (usually -15C) but if the wind is not too strong, I can sit on the deck and enjoy the glorious sun.

I love to bring cottonwood buds in at this time of year. The best are from the tops of trees as the branches are gnarly and the buds will produce catkins. Near the highway is a tree that broke years ago and its “top” is within easy reach. As soon as the twigs are brought inside, the wonderfully scented balsam oil exudes from the buds.

And now we have juncos.

Two for the first couple of days, then suddenly 10 yesterday and now about 15. It is another gorgeous day in paradise, sunny, cloudless, bug-free! If one has to self-isolate, one could not have a better place!

5 thoughts on “Happy Corona Equinox”

  1. Sorry, I agree with your concerned neighbours about bringing 4 workers into the area. Young, healthy people are still dying of corona virus, and I’m sure your health services are not too capable of dealing with intubations and ventilation for severe pneumonia. And you don’t know if you’ll have enough food and toilet paper for them. Yikes. Everything is halted where I live, could the work you have in mind for these young folk not wait til next year? Time to play it safe, I think, its not worth the risk to human lives, both the youth and your community.

  2. Hello, Chris! Such great photos and artwork! I just made two batches of oil from the cottonwood buds I found. Healing balm for the skin and joints, and as you know, the fragrance is beyond compare. I’ll steep the buds for several months to use over the winter. Harry sure looks happy in that photo! Enjoyed the great story telling with your life experiences. A refreshing escape from the news of our world today! And…congratulations on your first speeding ticket!

  3. Sounds and looks like Paradise. I love sitting on the deck in the sun at this time of year. Love your pictures, and your words, keep well during this “crazy” time.

  4. I can’t think of a better expert on self isolation!! Good luck and thanks for the gorgeous photos. Your painting is fantastic too.

  5. I love your painting. We’ve not had much snow this winter, and I love your photos with the birds and the snow.

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