Bella Coola Valley interim

During the five weeks while I was evacuated from the Big Stick Fire (see previous posts), I spent the interim in the Bella Coola Valley. I could not have wished for a better place to be evacuated to – my own cabin (with power, running water, shower and flush toilet no less!) internet, and welcoming friends.

Various events happened while I was down there. The first of these was the addition of a microwave dish to a nearby telephone tower.

The phone signal is bounced off a repeater on the flat shoulder to the left of Mt Stupendous, and bounced to a similar microwave tower near Anahim Lake.

Those dishes are huge!

The contractor was happy that my hosts would be able to make use of the crates. Only problem was they bristled with nails! I spent quite a few hours laboriously levering them out.

Although it was painfully dry at home, the Bella Coola Valley was graced with periodic showers.

And rainbows.

Because of the warmer, wetter climate, the vegetation is quite different down in the valley. Hardhack was in bloom.

And burdock,

As the season progressed, goldenrod put on a great show.

In between showers we had the same high temperatures as was occurring up top. The Atnarko river was the place to be.

There was room for only two in the raft, so I met my hosts at the pull-out and got the second ride downriver.

Huge cottonwoods keep crashing into the river. Guides from the lodge next door keep channels cut out through them.

They drift the river with their tourists.

It is truly a spectacular place in spring and summer. But in winter it rains, and rains, and rains…..

All kinds of things grow in the Bella Coola Valley. While I was down there I was able to grab a plethora of fruit.

Cherries, raspberries, blackberries

Blueberries, and later, plums, apples and pears.

The Bella Coola Valley is a haven for bears although I saw only two sows with cubs in my time there, both on the same morning. Another person staying at my friends’ place was a bear researcher. it was her 6th summer studying bears in the valley – this year’s task was was to determine the impact of tourism. In the last few years bear viewing has taken off with a vengeance and during spawning season the river has become quite a zoo of tourists. The bear researcher had set up cameras,

And also barbed wire in the hope of collecting hair samples. The researcher ran her hand under the wire as this made the hair easier to see.

Only one sample was found when I was along,

It was not known if the hair belonged to a bear or another animal. Collected samples would be examined later and DNA testing done; this would not only determine species, but also, if it was a bear, provide a record of each individual passing through.

The barb was then burned off. Ideally the whole wire would have been singed to make absolutely sure DNA didn’t get mixed up, but it view of the extreme fire hazard, only the obvious barb was targeted.

My hosts had a huge hemlock in front of their house. The branches overhung the roof and heavy wet snow would cause ice to form and creep up between the sheets of metal. (Hard to think of that when the temperature was 40C.). On one hot day I returned to find the tree limbers at work.

The man swung through the tree with the ease of a Tarzan. He had the most amazing array of tools attached to his belt.

Now you can see my friends’ house!

One morning I received an email from the West Chilcotin Search and Rescue (based in Tatla Lake) to assist in a search in the Bella Coola Valley. Three people had been drift boating along the river – further down than where I went in – and the boat had washed in upside down. One person was found drowned the first day but two were still missing. I can no longer scramble efficiently through wild, tangled, rocky riverbanks, and I do not have SAR qualifications to go in boats so there was not a lot I could do. So I was given the task of walking along the road and examining the tide flats, where the Bella Coola River empties into the ocean.

The tide was out, but I soon realized it would be impossible to spot a mud-covered person lying among the stumps, so I watched for wildlife activity – foxes, bears, and birds. There were plenty of gulls and eagles along the river, but they were just sitting there waiting for titbits. (They are the white blobs – the photo was taken at the extreme range of my lens so not clear). They were not gathering and feeding so I would have to assume no bodies were washed up there.

I patrolled from the edge of the town down to the picnic ground. A hot, still morning.

I assisted on days 3 and 4 of the search. The missing two people were not found. The river was very high due to all the hot weather (the ocean here is actually mostly fresh water and it is quite murky with glacial silt). It is assumed that the victims must have been swept under a log jam. The search will resume in the fall when the river drops.

One thought on “Bella Coola Valley interim”

  1. Wow, life is never dull for you. Assisting in a Search & Rescue….too bad the others were not found. What an unfortunate event. I haven’t heard Spirea referred to as Hardhack for a long time. Drifting the Atnarko looks and sounds wonderful, as long as there is someone along that is knowledgeable of the river and area. I am jealous of all the blackberries (even tho they are not fun to pick!) and all the other fruit and berries. Just working on rosehips here now.

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