On the drive to Lillooet, I disconnected the Tracker to go back for a better look at the western section of the Duffey Lake Road (BC Highway 99), the climb up from Pemberton. On Day 47, June 11th, I went back for a look at the eastern section, the even more dramatic drop into Lillooet.
Leaving Lillooet at 11:15, I took a photo of the junction of the Texas Creek Road with the Duffey Lake Road, to remind myself of one of the most spectacular places my son and I ever went in our Blazer – Molybdenite Lake. There’s a good photojournal of a 4×4 drive there at ih8mud.com.
The Seton River 5 minutes later.
The only survivor of the 3 one-lane bridges that used to be on the Duffey Lake Road.
The little Seton Dam supplies water to the Seton Powerhouse on the Fraser River at Lillooet.
The railway along Seton Lake is often described as one of the most scenic in the world. As I was lower down, the Rocky Mountaineer train went by. There is also a daily service called the Kaoham Shuttle that runs between Lillooet and Seton Portage.
BC Hydro has developed a very nice Recreation Area that has both this upper viewpoint and a beach down on Seton Lake.
The second of the tour buses I saw. The driver waved at me when he noticed me taking the photo – I like his attitude a lot.
The road ahead from the Recreation Area.
Gaining some elevation, at 11:45 (I spent some time at the Recreation Area).
The story of Vernon Pick and his incredible estate that came to be called “Walden North” is a local legend about which a book is currently being written. The Bridge River Lillooet News has more information.
Athough most of the grades driving westbound are uphill, there are some impressive down-grades as well.
Huge rolls of wire-mesh are at the top of that cliff ahead, to be unrolled over the cliff to reduce rockfall dangers. Nobody was working this day, but I’ve watched it being done on a smaller scale in other places, and find it quite fascinating.
I did a U-turn at 12:05, not wanting to get into the long pilot-car delay that I hit coming eastbound. This would get me the most dramatic part of the drop into Lillooet. The next photo was shot at 12:16.
Two minutes later.
Back at the wire-mesh cliff at 12:30, with Cayoosh Creek raging below.
The Duffey Lake Road really deserves some stops to appreciate the country. And to appreciate the work that resulted in a road being punched through these rocks.
One of the very few formalized viewpoints, at 12:36.
A tight switchback at 12:40.
Across the canyon, the most impressive of the waterfalls in this very dry country.
The first and newest of the 3 “Welcome to Lillooet” signs, each with very different designs.
For just a short distance, you get a look at the country behind the dry cliffs that tower over the road
At 12:48, we were almost at the bottom of the hill again.
Ten minutes later, we were at the motorhome, and I was getting ready for the next exploring, the lunch at Fort Berens Estate Winery that I told you about in the last post.
As I mentioned in my last post, within a couple of hours of arriving at the Fraser Cove RV Park in Lillooet, I had booked a third night. I had lots to see and do in Lillooet and the area. The photos and commentary in this post are from Days 46, 47, and 48 of the trip (June 10-12). I did some exploring beyond Lillooet on those days, but those activities will have their own posts.
The Fraser Cove RV Park is tucked away right on the Fraser River, in a remote corner off a dead-end road, close to a wooden bridge that was built in 1913. The business was bought a year and a half ago by Peter and Dawn Mortensen, and their story, which I heard pieces of from each of them, is part of what drew me to stay another day.
The camp site that Peter assigned me was far from any other sites, on an upper level. All the other RV sites are on the lower level seen to the left in this photo. There is also a guest cabin on that level.
In the trees below the RV level, pretty much right on the river bank, are some very nice, well-screened tenting sites.
The office, in a truck camper on the main RV level, is only open from 4:00 until 7:00, but I just checked in with Peter up on the driveway.
Where to start my exploring of Lillooet? Well, with an historic bridge right in front of me, that choice was easy. HistoricBridges.org says of it: “…this beautiful suspension bridge is a good representative example of a smaller-scale suspension bridge from the early 20th Century. The two tower suspension bridge features a main central span that is supported by the main cable by suspenders and has a wooden pony truss for stiffening. The arm spans between the towers and the anchorages are not supported by any suspenders from the main cable and are instead supported by other means. The towers of the bridge are composed of traditional built-up riveted beams that include attractive v-lacing.”
The bridge was built in 1913 to replace a ferry that had been winched back and forth across the river since 1860. This bridge was replaced by a new concrete bridge, and was restored for non-vehicular traffic in 2003.
On the west side of the river, the bridge is stabilized by cables held by wooden towers. On the east side, the cables are held by concrete and rock dead-men anchored into the hillside.
On top of the eastern bridge tower is an active osprey nest, with a webcam, installed by the Lillooet Naturalist Society, broadcasting live video.
Below the bridge are fishing camps, similar to ones that have been there for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. The Old Bridge soon came to represent everything I enjoyed about Lillooet, and the dogs and I spent a lot of time walking to and from it. Recent and ancient history, nature in the form of osprey, marmots and sturgeon, and overwhelming everything else, the power of the Fraser River.
Tucker unfortunately discovered cactus at the Old Bridge. Wrapping my shirt around my hand lessened the pain of getting it off his paw, but those spines are at least as sharp as a needle, and go through anything.
Looking downriver from the bridge towards Lillooet and the valley I drove through to get here.
It was now after 5:00 pm so I drove into Lillooet to have a brief look around before dinner. There are 3 “Welcome” signs as you come into Lillooet from the north or west – this very creative one is the closest to downtown, at a large pullout with information panels.
The Lillooet Cemetery has been the site of burials since 1887, but it was formalized with the Province as a cemetery in March 1938. At that time, 179 burials had been recorded.
Unfortunately, few of the graves have markers. A lot plan posted at the entrance shows about 800 grave sites in total now.
A look at The Bridge of the 23 Camels from the highest point in the cemtery. The bridge opened in 1980 to replace what is now called The Old Bridge. It was named to commemorate BC’s first and last experiment with using camels as draft animals. In 1862, John C. Callbreath imported 23 Bactrian camels to haul freight from Lillooet to the Cariboo gold fields. The camels, though, scared horses and many people, and their hooves could not handle rocky trails. They were soon abandoned.
A closer look at The Bridge of the 23 Camels the next day.
There are several walking trails around Lillooet, including this one at the north end of town, offering a panoramic view over the valley.
This road dead-ends at the east side of The Old Bridge.
Back into town looking for old or interesting architecture. This is the Municipal Hall.
There are jade sculptures of various sorts around Lillooet. This one, in front of the Municipal Hall, was combined with a piece of Cayoosh Creek chert by Kirk Makepeace.
The best-known of the old buildings in Lillooet is the Miyazaki Heritage House. It was built as the Longford House in the late 1880s for prominent Lillooet citizens Caspar and Cerise Phair. Master builder William Duguid executed the Second Empire Mansard style residence. In 1933 the Phair’s son became the owner of the home, and during World War II, he met Masajiro Miyazaki, a Japanese-Canadian physician who was interned at Bridge River with his family. Phair got approval for Dr. Miyazaki to open a medical clinic in his basement, and in 1947, the doctor became owner of the house. In 1950, Dr. Miyazaki became the first Japanese-Canadian to hold public office when he was elected to the Town Council, and in 1977, he was invested into the Order of Canada.
This sculpture at the east end of The Bridge of the 23 Camels was created from a Pelton wheel from a hydro-electric plant. Interpretive panels describe the Bridge River Hydro System of 3 dams and reservoirs, and 4 generating stations.
After getting the kids fed a very late dinner, it was time for a proper barbecue to celebrate my deep pleasure at being in that place doing what I love to do.
The weather was much better the next morning, and 5 men in 2 boats were on the Fraser River right below me, trying to catch a white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus). Peter had told me that there were some 6-7 foot ones being hooked recently. This is a catch-and-release fishery, but these massive fish will jump right of the water when hooked, and that fight draws anglers from all over the world.
I love the roadside signs of the biggest white sturgeon fishing charter operation. The largest freshwater fish in North America is a River Monster indeed!
The Fraser Cove RV Park was so perfect for the dogs and I that I wish we could have stayed for 2 weeks. This bench is 10 feet from a couple of outhouses – a beautiful place to wait for your partner to do what needs to be done, perhaps 🙂
Here’s a good look at my camp site. Peter had warned me that the wifi probably wouldn’t work up here, and he was correct. But I discovered that if I took my laptop down to the lower level and logged onto the network there, it would hold it back at the rig.
The Old Bridge was a wonderful dog-walk destination. They could be off-leash much of the time. A disappointing thing I discovered there and in Lillooet generally is that picking up your dog’s poop is not a widely accepted thing to do. Even downtown around the interpretive panel at the Miyazaki Heritage House where somebody is bound to step in it… 🙁
For a longer walk, Davis Road up to the highway was excellent, as it gets pretty much no traffic except for a few RVs in the afternoon. This is looking back down towards the RV park.
I felt like splurging on a really special lunch, and the Fort Berens Estate Winery a couple of kilometers away was recommended and looked perfect. I did a tasting first, and the Dry Riesling 2016, which has won Gold at both the Pacific Rim Wine Competition and Los Angeles International Wine Awards already this year, was my favourite.
For lunch, Haida Wild Halibut Linguine, with icicle tomato sauce, spinach, basil, sourdough bread, and paired by the chef with a bottle of their Chardonnay, was simply superb. I got chatting with a couple of staff members and a client who lives nearby. The pride that the staff takes in what Fort Berens is accomplishing, and the love that all 3 people have for this community, was a real pleasure to hear. The client told me that he’s got his sturgeon for the year, and described some of the fishing technique, including putting a lot of weight on – “a railroad spike works well” 🙂
What a wonderful way to spend 90 minutes or so on a day like this.
Back at the RV park, where Bella and Tucker had had their afternoon nap, it was time for some play. We found a lovely little beach on the river right below the campsites.
Soft sand, warm sun, moving water, and sticks to play with. It takes two to fetch a stick well!
There were even some really intersting rocks around the beach, so we were there for a long time, playing and then just relaxing in the sun with nobody around. I was born in a hospital that overlooked the Fraser River, spent countless days playing along it and panning gold on it with my Dad, and I still feel a strong connection to it.
The next day, Day 48, June 12th, was taken up with a drive to Goldbridge and Bralorne, but that was quite an adventure that deserves its own post.
Trains are seldom seen on the rail line that runs through Lillooet.
Dramatic lighting, seen from The Old Bridge at 8:15 pm.
I hadn’t had any luck photographing the ospreys at the bridge, but finally, at 8:25 pm with a howling wind making holding the camera steady almost impossible, I got a few shots.
On our final walk to The Old Bridge as we were getting ready to leave Lillooet, one of the ospreys gave me a parting gift.
At about 10:30 on Day 49, we were on our way to visit old friends near 100 Mile House.
For the past few weeks, my regular readers have been travelling with me through a world of ocean views and big trees. On Day 46 of the trip, June 10th, I crossed over the coastal mountains on the Duffey Lake Road into the dry Interior of British Columbia, to Lillooet.
The drive would have been only 108 km (67 mi) without side-trips, but as is often the case, I put on many more miles than that. Click on the map of my basic route to open an interactive version in a new window.
The day started wet at Nairn Falls Provincial Park. This is Highway 99 looking towards Pemberton, which is only 3 km away.
These first 2 photos were shot at 06:30 while the campground gates were still locked. I thought about hiking back to Nairns Falls without the dogs so I could shoot a video, but got lazy…
One more shot before leaving the campground – I love “Stinky the Bear” giving lessons in outhouse etiquette!
We were in no hurry to leave. After some work on the blog, 3 dog walks, and breakfast, we reached Pemberton at 10:30, under slowly-clearing skies. It had been a week or so since I dumped my tanks, and there’s a sani-dump at the Pemberton Visitor Information Centre.
I had never seen a coin-operated sani-dump before. What a great concept, and at $5 per, I’ll bet that it generates a very substantial amount of revenue. The gas station at the Whitehorse Walmart would make a small fortune from one.
At 10:50, heading east down the Lillooet River valley on BC Highwy 99. I never have understood why the Lillooet River and Lake are so far away from Lillooet – it should be the Pemberton River and Lake so we don’t confuse visitors 🙂
Lillooet Lake. Just a few hundred meters/yards ahead, the highway starts a very steep and long ascent out of the valley.
It’s impossible to get photos of the Duffey Lake Road section of Hwy 99 from the motorhome. The road is steep, narrow, and twisting, and there are no pulloffs. So I can both have a record and show you what it’s like, I pulled over at this large pulloff at the first summit, which is 16.8 km from the start of the climb at Lillooet Lake. I unhooked the Tracker, and went back down to Lillooet Lake again.
Heading back down: “Caution, extreme grades next 13 km”. This is a road that every driver needs to take seriously, especially those driving oversize vehicles. Though it doesn’t show in the photos that follow, there was a lot of traffic on the highway, and a lot of it was RVs, most of that Class C rental motorhomes. It looks like every RV rental company in southern BC has it on their “must-see” list for clients. There were also 3 tour motorcoaches.
The parking lot at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park was completely full – maybe even over-full. That really surprised me. It’s spectacular country in the summer, but through the ragged clouds it was easy to see that Father Winter was still in charge of that backcountry.
Now there’s a well-warned corner! The signs say that there’s a 15% grade for 5 km, and if you’re not ready for that, a runaway lane is directly ahead. When I first started driving the Duffey Lake Road in about 1967, it was just a series of logging roads.
“Truck advisory – 10 km/h” on the switchback corner ahead.
Runaway lanes are plentiful.
As I started up the hill again, I couldn’t resist taking a look at what is now called the In-SHUCK-ch Forest Service Road (FSR). What changes had 45 years brought to it?
The changes are mostly minor – some better bridges and it’s smoother, but the FSR character remains.
The biggest change is the presence of BC Recreation Sites (once BC Forest Service Recreation Sites). They used to be free, but most of them seem to charge around $12 now. This one at Strawberry Point, 6.1 km from the highway, was too busy to even bother checking out. The lake was extremely high, dirty, and full of trees and other debris, so the sometimes-lovely beach that I expect is there, wouldn’t be.
Strawberry Point was as far south as I went on the In-SHUCK-ch FSR. Heading back to the Duffey Lake Road, there are some nice lake views. Some day, the way BC is growing and changing, this may be a paved highway, too 🙁
Heading back up the hill. The Duffey Lake Road is part of the Discovery Coast Circle Route. If I get to Bella Coola again, this year, I’d be doing all of the 2,116 km (1,315 mi) this year except for the ferry to Bella Coola (I cringe to think what that would cost with the RV!).
At about 1:00, very pleased with the way the day was going, I hooked the Tracker up to the RV again, and we started down the Duffey Lake Road towards the dry country. Judging by what still remains of what must have been a massive avalanche, this was a bad snow year here, as in much of southwestern BC.
At 1:25, construction ahead. This turned out to be a 25-minute wait for a pilot car.
A lengthy wait and then several miles behind a pilot car to get by a road sweeper. Hmmmm…
Cayoosh Creek was at full flow and fury – it would take a team of expert kayakers to get down it. I was very surprised (and a little disappointed) to see that both of the one-lane bridges across the creek have been recently replaced (there were still still when I drove the road in April 2014). One more bit of character now relegated to the “History” file.
I didn’t have camping spot in mind when I arrived at Lillooet at about 2:30. I first was going to check in at the Cayoosh Creek Campground. When nobody was at the office, I decided to have a look at it first, and didn’t like the general vibe of the place, so went to find another possibility.
When I arrived at the Fraser Cove Campground, the owner met me and said that he had nothing available for a rig my size. Oh well. After chatting with me for a bit, though, he said that he might have a spot, if 15 amp power was okay. No services at all were okay with me. A few minutes later, I had booked 2 nights, and this was my view 🙂
Within a couple of hours, I had booked a third night. I had lots to see and do, and the vibe of this place was wonderful.
I expect that many people camp at Nairn Falls Provincial Park while they’re using the vast network of mountain biking trails around Pemberton. For me, the hike to Nairn Falls was the draw.
The sign to the right at the start of the trail says: “Nairn Fall, 1.5 Km. This trail traverses steep banks above a swift flowing river. Stay on the trail and keep a close watch on children. Sturdy footwear is recommended.” Other signs advise that bicycles are not allowed, and dogs must be on leash.
The trail is excellent when there are very few people here. An interpretive sign points out that Nairn Falls Provincial Park is home to the rubber boa, the only boa constrictor found in Canada. Only 45 cm (18 in) long, they live in the forest litter and feed on small rodents.
The Green River was at maximum flow – a great time for waterfall viewing.
By the time you get near the falls, the trail is far above the river.
The roughest part of the trail for anyone with challenges (including the woman with twins in a stroller that we saw) is just before reaching the falls.
The first view of the Nairn Falls viewing area. We started at the upper level.
Nairn Falls isn’t very large, but the power of the water roaring through a twisting, multi-drop canyon of granite is very impressive. At low water levels, a granite bridge and some sections where part of the river flows under the granite can be seen/
To the L’íl’wat people, Nairn Falls is a spiritual place called Yélmícw. Their stories tell of the land being re-shaped by supernatural beings called “Transformers.” They left a trail of distinctive boulders, rock formations, lakes, rivers, mountains, and waterfalls. At Yélmícw, Elastic Man’s cave is behnd the lower falls, and a Transformer’s footprint can be seen in the granite at an ancient L’íl’wat fishing spot below the falls.
Looking straight down into a slot off to the side side of the main canyon.
Then we went down to the lower viewing area.
The lower drop of Nairn Falls. There are actually more drops below, but they aren’t accessible.
Bella and Tucker showed me how to navigate the granite up from the viewing area back to the trail. I was much slower than them 🙂
Looking up to the upper viewing area as we walked back to the trail.
About 45 minutes after starting down the trail, we were back at the parking lot. It’s quite small and when it gets busy won’t be very big-rig friendly.
The kids were ready for a nap, so before getting dinner ready, I made the short drive into Pemberton to do some grocery shopping.
The rough old logging town of Pemberton is long gone. It has a very “yuppy” feeling to it – “Whistler North”.
The plan for the next day was to drive to Lillooet for a 2-night stay.
On Day 45 of the trip, June 9th, after 37 days being within a short distance of the ocean, I moved inland. After taking a ferry from the Sunshine Coast, the Sea to Sky Highway (BC Highway 99) was the route to Pemberton.
We had a nice calm morning at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park. The weather was much better than what had been forecast, so we got a long dog-walk in. At 09:35, we were at BC Ferries’ large Langdale terminal just north of Gibsons. Coming through Gibsons, I was shocked at the size of it now.
The Langdale dock and departure lounge.
At 10:00, here comes our ferry, the Queen of Surrey.
At 10:17, two levels of vehicles were loading.
Raising the gangplanks at 10:34.
Up on the top observation deck.
Some of the homes overlooking the Langdale terminal.
Sailing away from Langdale, at 10:39.
The rocks down at Gibsons are getting crowded.
The light wasn’t good for photography on the short crossing to Horseshoe Bay, so I took advantage of the business centre on the Queen of Surrey to get my laptop recharged a bit. The “free wifi” note beside the table got my hopes up, but it barely functioned. I managed to get a couple of emails answered, and that was all.
At 11:17, we were about ready to start unloading at Horseshoe Bay.
The highways at Horseshoe Bay have to get a lot of vehicles moved, but are very tightly contained by the ocean and very high cliffs. The result is an incredible maze, but navigating through it wasn’t difficult. By 10:40, the Sea to Sky Highway was feeling good. I didn’t know where we’d end up that night, I’d just stop when it felt right.
Near Whistler, a large pullout was perfect for a dog-walk, then lunch and a nap. There were also some flowers to photograph.
The highway had been very busy, but 95% of the vehicles turned off somewhere in Greater Whistler”, which is getting ever closer to Pemberton. I stopped at the Pemberton Visitor Centre to see what the options for activities and camping are. The woman on duty offered to let me use a back room to plug my laptop in and finish a couple of blog posts, so we were there for an hour or so.
That looks interesting.
It was sad to see that one of the most popular natural hot springs in the area has been closed. The actions of some irresponsible campers there have resulted in 6 food-conditioned bears causing problems. Access to the hot springs was closed last year, and nobody seems betting on when it may re-open.
Nairn Falls Provincial Park intrigued me when I went past the entrance just before reaching Pemberton, so I decided to camp there for the night. I got set up in a site with the spectacular view seen in the next photo, but then as I was taking Bella and Tucker for a walk a few minutes later, noticed the “Reserved” sign on the post. There were many other “Reserved” signs around the park – the fact that 60 of the 94 sites can be reserved is a good indication of how popular this park is.
Oh well, a loop around the campground, and few minutes later we were re-established at a camp site in the forest close to the start of the trail to the falls. The nightly fee here is $22.
The first order of business was then to hike into Nairn Falls.
In Sechelt the afternoon of Day 44 of the trip, June 8th, I had visited Bricker Cidery, then gone back to Porpoise Bay Provincial Park to get the dogs. We then went to downtown Sechelt to do some more exploring.
Our first stop was the walkway along Trail Bay. Even on this rather dreary day, there were lots of people and dogs.
Down by the gravel-loading wharf at the far side of Trail Bay, the tug Storm Wave appeared ready to leave with a loaded barge.
There are a few interpretive panels along the sea walk. The one entitled “The Union Steamship Era: Opening Up the Sunshine Coast” inclues this wonderful Union Steamship brochure cover from about 1926. Until 1951 there was no ferry-and-road system, everyone came by boat. In the 1920s that was a 3-hour trip on a Union Steamship Company boat, with the fare $1.50.
There’s a wide variety of homes along the Trail Bay waterfront, from historic and modern cottages to luxury condos.
At the far end of the walk are 5 totem poles. Four of them represent the people from old villages of the shíute;;sh&aaclh (Sechelt) Nation, while the centre one represents the shíute;;sh&aaclh Nation as it exists today, an amalgamation of the four clans represented by the other poles. The poles, raised between 1986 and 2000, were carved by Tom Billy, Arnold Jones, Tony Paul, and Jamie Jeffries. There are many other significant totem poles in Sechelt – a descriptive brochure can be picked up at the Visitor Information Centre.
There are 3 carvings of this type along the seawall. I don’t know what the significance is.
We walked out to the end of the pier. Out there is a large panel with photos of what you see now along shore, with historic photos identifying their locations. It’s a great way to give the historic photos context.
Sechelt’s oldest surviving building is “The Green Cottage”. One of Herbert Whitaker’s rental cottages, it was built in the Craftsman style in about 1909.
While looking for an historic church with a small cemetery, I came across Rockwood Lodge. More accurately, I came across a very impressive public garden, and found Rockwood Lodge hidden at the back of it. It was built as a boarding house by Bill and Jessie Youngson in 1935. The Arts and Crafts style building was acquired by the District of Sechelt in 1986, and now, restored back to its 1930s look, is a well-used meeting location. I expect that the gardens are used by photographers for portrait sessions.
Right beside Rockwood Lodge is the rear entrance to the church grounds that I was looking for, those of St. Hilda’s Anglican church. I had driven by it on my search, but went by because the old building no longer exists.
An interpretive panel shows the original church and cemetery.
“Saint Hilda’s Pioneer Cemetery and Memorial Garden. Est. 1923.”
A general view of the cemetery.
Four-month-old Regnheld Evelyn Davidson was the first burial at Saint Hilda’s, on January 15, 1923. A baby’s death would have made it a particularly sad start.
This is probably the oldest marker in the cemetery, but it isn’t identified.
Going around to the front of Saint Hilda’s, I was surprised to find a meditation labyrinth. Labyrinths have been in use for about 5,000 years – this 11-circuit labyrinth is the same type as seen on the floor of the nave at Chartres Cathedral in France, which dates to the early 13th Century. A brochure at the labyrinth explains: “The medieval design made one path as long as possible, starting at the outer circumference and leading to the centre. Fraught with twists and turns, the path’s meanderings were considered symbolic representations of one’s own journey through life.” I’m always pleased to come across labyrinths. I saw a couple of them in Europe, but I’ve now also found them in a fairly remote location in the Yukon and in a residential-area park in Grande Cache, Alberta.
By starting here and walking slowly along the path while clearing your mind, spending time in the labyrinth can help de-clutter your world. Having two dogs waiting for me in the car made it impossible for me to focus on this one, but I really like what its presence says about the community.
By now it was 5:30, time to get back to the motorhome and feed the kids. Although I wasn’t finished exploring Sechelt, the weather forecast was for more dreary weather, so I decided to leave the coast the next day. For much of what remained to be seen in the area, I’d rather have Cathy with me, and we will be back.
After hiking in to Skookumchuck Narrows in the morning of Day 43 of the trip, June 7th, I made the short drive to Sechelt. We got set up for 2 nights at the Porpoise Bay Provincial Park campground just north of town, and began our Sechelt exploring with a visit to the new Bricker Cidery, which had just opened a few days earlier.
BC Highway 101 is not one to hurry on. Not only because there are many side roads to beaches and tiny communities, but also because it’s narrow and winding. Although it runs close to the sea for much of its length, there are very few ocean views.
There are 84 campsites, with a nightly fee of $29.
We made a loop around the campground, and there aren’t really any good or bad sites. They’re all spacious and fairly level.
I chose campsite #67 near the end of that exploratory loop.
My first job once we got settled was to take a photo that Cathy had asked for. She wanted to make sure that none of us was wearing a cast or anything of that sort, I think 🙂
The first dog walk was to the beach. There, as usual in BC, we were “greeted” by this sign. We discovered a trail later that evening that runs through the forest and then along Anus Creek to a small estuary with no such restrictions. Bella and Tucker were able to have a good play there.
The picnic area is very nice, and huge. The parking lots must hold 400 or so cars, and perhaps 30 picnic tables are available.
There are no fire rings at the campsites, just a few communal fire rings – one is seen to the right of the path in the next photo. I seldom build campfires when Cathy isn’t with me, in any case.
We had a good night’s sleep, but could hera heavy rain start very early in the morning. It got very heavy, and when I shot this photo showing water pouring off the RV roof at 08:40, Bella and Tucker were still not interested in going for a walk!
After a late breakfast, to kill some rain-time, I went into the Sechelt Visitor Information Centre. Two very helpful staff members showed me lots to do, outside and in, to keep us busy. By 11:00 or so the rain had eased off and the dogs and I enjoyed a much longer walk. Then I decided to leave the dogs in the RV and take a drive to check out a place that one of the tourism people had suggested – a recently-opened cidery.
The Bricker Cidery is in West Sechelt, in a lovely area of acreage residential properties.
As soon as I walked in the door, I was taken by the great vibe. I spent a few minutes talking to Nick Farrer about the business – he and his wife Morgan Moore had just opened the doors of their new business 5 days before. Although there were only 2 other people when I arrived, a few more settled in over the next half hour or so. Word was obviously getting around in a hurry.
Bricker’s is producing 3 ciders – an “Original”, a medium dry one with dry hops added, and a dry “Frambo” with raspberries added.
Morgan poured me a flight to try all 3 types. While all 3 are very nice, I was particularly attracted to the hopped one.
After checking out the various options for cider to take home, I asked Nick to fill a couple of growlers with the hopped cider. I kept them in the RV fridge for a few days, and then they disappeared quickly in an evening with friends who also really enjoyed it.
As well as a small deck, this large picnic area is available so you can bring the family and spend some time. Nick told me about the condition the property was in when he and Morgan bought it, and how much work it’s been to get it to the state that visitors see now. I expect that the neighbours are as pleased with the changes as the other customers I heard talking in the tasting room. The cidery is on a major cycling route, and I expect that sunny days will see good crowds.
The clouds were trying hard to break up as I started back to the park at 3:30.
Withe rain now stopped, I got Bella and Tucker, and returned to downtown Sechelt for more exploring.
The hike into Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park to see the tidal Sechelt Rapids was a last-minute addition to the itinerary after several people told me that it was a must-see. So on Day 43 of the trip, June 7th, we made the 8-km ( 5-mi) hike, then continued south to Sechelt.
Before I get started on this day, I want to back up to the previous evening for a minute. Following a mention of the Sunshine Coast a couple of weeks ago, my friend Shannon in Whitehorse told me that a long-time buddy of hers owns a fish and chip shop in Garden Bay, LaVerne’s Grill. Then a woman at the Backeddy Marina told me that LaVerne’s was her favourite fish and chip shop. After being left alone all day while I was on the Princess Louisa Inlet tour, Bella and Tucker needed a treat, so just before 4:30, we started the short drive.
It’s only 27 km (15.4 miles) from the Timberline RV Park to LaVerne’s Grill, but it’s a very winding, wandering 27 k. As I drove along, I was also looking for a place where I could park the motorhome, unhook the Tracker, and take the Tracker for the hike. There was a perfect spot just south of the turnoff to Egmont and Skookumchuck.
Entering Garden Bay, which apparently is part of Pender Harbour. LaVerne’s would be pretty hard to miss.
The visit to LaVerne’s Grill was both fun and delicious. It has a 1950s diner feel to it, so that put it off to a good start for me. Then, LaVerne was happy to get greetings from her old friend, and the 3-piece ling cod and chips I ordered (for only $18.95) was extremely good (“only the best ling cod in BC”, the sign says). Bella and Tucker seemed to agree 🙂
Heading back to the RV park, the road winds around Garden Bay Lake. It was quiet this evening, but I’ll bet that it gets crazy-busy in a few weeks. LaVerne said that her shop certainly does.
The next morning, we were on the road at 09:30, and a few minutes later, I parked the rig on a wide shoulder, unhooked the Tracker, and we drove another 7 km to the trailhead at Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park. The hike was timed to get us to Skookumchuck Narrows to see a -XL (extreme ebb tide) at 11:25 – tides are what create the Sechelt Rapids at the narrows, and extreme tides create the best action.
This scene made me think of the 1960s song “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band:
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
And the sign said anybody caught trespassin’ would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and I yelled at the house
“Hey! What gives you the right?
To put up a fence to keep me out, or to keep Mother Nature in?”
Of course, I know “what gives you the right”, and if I owned that property, I’d probably do the same.
Some signs are good signs, though 🙂 This one includes a table listing the best viewing times and locations. It says that for the ebb tide I was going to see, North Point was the best viewing location. The ebb tide produces rapids and whirlpools, while flood tides produce rapids with standing waves that attract kayakers.
We reached the actual trailhead with its many “No Parking” signs, at 10:15. That would get us to North Point nice and early.
The trail is good, with some fairly minor ups and downs. At 10:40 we passed Brown Lake.
The trail divides here – North Point for ebb tide viewing is to the left, and Roland Point for flood tide viewing is to the right.
The North Point viewing area at Skookumchuck Narrows. Only 2 other people were there.
Several people were down at Roland Point. Odd. Did they not read the information brochures and/or signs?
“Sechelt Rapids. These reversing tidal rapids, famous for their spectacular whirlpools and whitewater, are considered among the fastest in the world. Current speeds during large tidal exchanges can exceed 16 knots (30 km/h). Here, a narrow neck of the ocean known as Skookumchuck Narrows connects Jervis Inlet and the Strait of Georgia (to your left) to land-locked Sechelt Inlet (to your right). In the Chinook jargon, Skookum = strong, chuck = water. Because flowing tidewater is restricted by this narrow channel, the difference in water level from one side of the rapids to the other sometimes exceeds 2 metres! Large ebbing (outgoing) currents are the most exciting and are best viewed from here. Large flooding (incoming) currents are best seen from Roland Point, a ten-minute walk to your right. Large vessel traffic is restricted to the short periods of slack water when the tidal currents change direction.”
At 11:00, 25 minutes before the maximum flow would happen, there were some good rapids by the light on the far side of the narrows.
On the far side of the channel is another gravel operation. I’m curious about what makes this gravel so special that it’s shipped all down the West Coast (and maybe even further).
More and more people started arriving for “the main event” after 11:00.
11:18 – the whirlpools were getting more and more extreme. All the information I’ve seen says that the best viewing time is within a half hour of the actual maximum current. No it isn’t – the differences even within a few minutes are huge.
11:19 – even pros need to play every now and then 🙂
Three minutes before maximum flow, an RCAF helicopter came by low and fast – cool!
When I took this final shot at 11:31, the whirlpools were already noticeably less extreme, so we started walking back to the car.
On the way out, we met a lot of people walking in. Bella and Tucker are both geting so good on the trails now – even an “on By” command is rarely needed, for people or dogs. When people ask to meet them, they’re very respectful.
A sign at the Skookumchuck Bakery & Cafe said that they were closed to attend a family wedding. Too bad, places like this are often very good.
By 1:00, I had the Tracker hooked up to the motorhome again, and we were headed south, with Porpoise Bay Provincial Park at Sechelt the planned destination for a couple of days.
Princess Louisa Inlet had been calling to me since 1965 when I got invited to the Malibu Club Lodge there. The cliffs at the head of it are so dramatic that it can be easily identified when passing over at 35,000 feet. On Day 42 of the trip, June 6th, I was finally going to get a close look at it. There are over 50 photos and a video in this post – that may give you some idea of how special this place is.
RV mornings are special times, with Bella and Tucker and Molly all sleeping close to me as I tap away on the laptop. This morning, even the normal 07:00 breakfast time had long passed before they stirred.
I booked a 10:30 tour, and was at Egmont a half-hour early. It was going to be a long day for the dogs, so we’d gone on an extra-long walk up an old logging road before I left.
The Backeddy Resort has recently added a few of these cool Geodesic Domes for rent. They’re really cute inside, and have stunning views.
I had booked with Sunshine Coast Tours – $149 with taxes for 5 hours, about 3½ of that on the water, the rest at Chatterbox Falls. I met our boat captain, Cliff, at the ramp down to the dock. He said that there were only 3 people on today’s today. Ouch – it must be a break-even day for him. The other passengers, women from Victoria and Ontario, soon arrived, and at 10:30, we cruised away from Egmont, headed for some of North America’s finest wilderness.
When I saw this boat in the harbour, I thought that it was one of Un-cruise’s small cruise ships, but when I blew the photo up, I saw that it’s the Malibu Princess, used to transport people to the Malibu Club that you’ll see shortly.
Within a few minutes ater leaving Egmont, we were in Jervis Inlet (see a map). About 77 km (48 mi) long, it’s known as the deepest fjord on the BC coast, with a maximum depth of 732 meters (2,402 ft).
Just 3 minutes after shooting the photo above, we made a stop at a little island that was home to a large number of harbour seals. Cliff was narrating an excellent tour and I’m sure that he told us the name of the island, but I don’t remember
The seals weren’t the least bit concerned about our presence.
This was not an express run to Princess Louisa Inlet. Cliff tucked into shore to show us some particularly incredible locations often.
At 10:55, we stopped to watch a black bear on the shore. He was fairly well hidden by logs so I’m not going to post any photos of him. Less than 10 minutes later, though, this bald eagle eating a fish stopped us again.
Two minutes after leaving the bald eagle, another black bear! This bear was much more photographer-friendly! 🙂
It would take years running Jervis Inlet to find some of the places that Cliff showed us. In that little cleft in the granite was a wall of misty waterfall.
In this tiny bay, a lot of what Cliff called “bait fish” were jumping. I took a bunch of photos hoping to catch one mid-air so I could see what they look like, but had no luck.
There’s a tree that would eventually grow itself to death – grow so large that it will topple into the sea.
Just up that valley about 25 miles is the ski resort town of Whistler! I had to try to form a map in my head to grasp that 2 places so dissimilar could be so close.
The further north we went in Jervis Inlet, the more common dramatic cliffs like this became.
The captain’s view. Although the boat has inside seating for a dozen people, all 3 of us stayed outside the entire time. Speakers on the back deck allowed us to hear Cliff clearly. Even those of us with hearing problems – ahem…
At 11:40, Cliff in and stopped in front of a particularly beautiful waterfall.
The waterfall looked like a good subject to create an HDR image of.
I had no idea that there are significant pictographs along Jervis Inlet. It shouldn’t have surprised me, though. Pictographs were done at spiritually powerful places, and Jervis Inlet has those in abundance, I expect.
The arrow points to the location of the pictograph in the photo above.
An old logging landing with an almost-hidden waterfall.
Again, the arrow points to the location of the pictograph in the photo above.
Princess Louisa Inlet is a bucket-list destination for many people, and large boats are seen often.
Malibu Club is a luxury lodge, but with a different focus than most. I mentioned in the introduction to this post that I was invited to spend a week or so there in 1965. I didn’t go, though. While doing the final paperwork, I realized that it was (and is) a Christian camp, and cancelled. I see that there’s a small part of the lodge now open to the general public (30 rooms).
At this small anchorage in Princess Louisa Inlet is an excellent hiking trail.
The head of Princess Louisa Inlet, with Chatterbox Falls at the lower right.
Several boats and a float plane were at the Chatterbox Falls dock.
The float plane was Sunshine Coast Air’s beautiful 1954 de Havilland Beaver, C-FUVQ.
A look back at the dock as I headed into the forest to explore at 12:35.
The trail to Chatterbox Falls begins as a boardwalk.
The MacDonald Memorial Lodge, just off the main trail on a trail that leads to the beach.
The “lodge” would be wonderful on a wet day – build a fire and just enjoy the vibe of this magnificent setting.
The beach seemed like a good location to have a first look at the waterfall. It was also a good place to eat the lunch I’d brought.
Then, up for a much closer look. The power of the falls at full flood as it was now, was quite incredible. Hardly a “chatterbox” now!
I shot this while standing in the heavy spray coming off the falls.
Waterfalls often need a video, and Chatterbox Falls certainly does. Here’s 2½ minutes to see and hear the power.
12 people have died trying to climb to the top of the falls. Okay.. 🙁
The area around the base of the falls fascinated me.
I expect that this place gets extremely busy in mid-summer. In July, Cliff’s boat brings in 15-20 people, not 3.
Several sources say that James Bruce Falls is the highest measured waterfall in North America and the 9th tallest in the world, at 840 meters (2,760 feet). To me, a waterfall is a single drop – that’s just a cascade. Impressive, whatever you call it, though.
I went back down to the beach and waded in the sea for a bit. The water was probably too cold for swimming, but was refreshing to wade in.
How do you even describe this picnic area? Does just “OMG!” work? 🙂
A couple of Common mergansers (Mergus merganser) cruised around us for a few minutes. The male is on the left, and the female on the right.
One final shot of Chatterbox Falls.
Leaving Chatterbox Falls at 1:40. Ten minutes later, we left Princess Louisa Inlet.
This is one of the most spectacular sailing shots I’ve ever gotten. There were a fair number of boats, both sail and power, headed up Jervis Inlet as we were southbound.
There was a whole lot of blasting needed to get that logging landing built!
I was surprised by the number of places in this area where a double resource extraction is going on in a major way. A huge gravel pit on the lower levels, and logging behind. I suppose triple resource extraction when you add the fishing that’s going on but not as noticeable.
A water taxi took advantage of the smoother ride behind us for a few minutes. While Cliff’s boat is fast, the water taxi was faster, and he soon roared around us 🙂
Back at Egmont harbour, at 3:00. It was half an hour earlier than advertised, but I can’t imagine that anyone minded. It had been an incredible day, and I was exhausted.
I was back at the motorhome at 3:30, and of course taking Bella and Tucker for a long walk was the first priority. The RV park is next door to a small farm (the “Labour of Love Farm”), and most times that we go by the pig pen, all the pigs rush down to meet us. It happened again this time.
Tucker was a bit curious, but soon decided that he’d rather have them stay on their own side of the fence. Bella, however, really wanted to meet them! The electric fence, installed to prevent another intrusion by bears (which had killed some pigs previously), prevented that.
After reaching Earl’s Cove by ferry on Day 40 of the trip, June 4th, I got a camp site at Timberline RV Park, and then drove to Egmont to see if I could get on a boat tour to Princess Louisa Inlet.
Picking Timberline RV Park as a place to stay for 2 nights was a shot in the dark. I could find no reviews, and their Web site isn’t very descriptive. Directions to find it were simple even with tiny signs pointing the way, but the road to it was a surprise. While paved, it’s very steep, and has some tight turns – there’s a bluff on one of those turns that hides any oncoming traffic. The road is also barely 2 lanes wide. But I made it. Turning into the driveway, I decided that they don’t get many large rigs 🙂
In front of either the office or a rental cabin (it turned out to be the latter) were simple directions: “Check in here. $35.00 per night cash or credit cards. Electricity. Sewer Hook-up. Water. Wi-fi. No camping available. Feel free to choose site 2 or 3 or 4. Someone will come by later to take your payment.”
A sign at the end of the driveway says that there are 10 sites on 7 acres, that long term rates are available, and that reservations are highly advised. From the 3 sites available, 2 was the easy choice, being the only one that’s well separated from a long-term trailer.
Looking across the other 2 available sites towards the rest of the campground. I can see that this would be a good setup for someone in Earl’s Cove long-term.
I had looked at booking the Princess Louisa Inlet boat tour online that morning, but decided that since I wanted to go the next day, I’d just go and book in person. Sunshine Coast Tours is based in Egmont, about 8 km (5 mi) from the RV park, 6 km from this turn off Highway 101. “Home of the Skookumchuck Rapids” – I had heard about them all my life, but hadn’t given them any thought until seeing the sign.
A view of the coast from the Egmont Road. Damn fine country!
Egmont is a confusing maze of little roads, as are most if not all of these little harbour communities. I stopped at a map that showed the location of Sunshine Coast Tours, but I couldn’t find them. When I went into the Backeddy Marina reception, I found out why. They don’t have an office and their boat wasn’t at the dock. I was going to leave and go back to the RV and book online. Luckily, another women who had overheard the first conversation asked if I wanted to book a tour. When I said “yes”, she said that she could book it for me. Success. The next photo was shot right outside the Backeddy Marina office and pub. Stunning.
On the drive back to the RV, we stopped for a bit of a hike. At the Egmont turnoff is a small parking lot signed “Suncoaster Trail”. I hadn’t heard of it, so decided to take Bella and Tucker for a look.
The trail, which is a very old logging road, starts off level and in thick forest, then climbs up and and down in the open for a bit. The sun was very warm – too warm for Bella. Under the forest canopy, it was lovely.
When we reached this point and I could see a long steep uphill ahead, with no reward like a lake ahead as far as I knew, we turned back. A 4 k walk was a decent afternoon jaunt for the kids. It was now 1:45, and I had a plan for a late lunch / early dinner.
I took Bella and Tucker back to the motorhome for a nap, and I returned to Egmont, to the Backeddy Pub. They have a house beer made by Townsite Brewing in Powell River. What could be better than a cold beer and a view like this?
How about a burger with goat cheese and bacon? Yuuuum! I’m being really bad this year, not cooking much at all. When I’m almost always close to places with unique food, why would I not take advantage of the opportunities? This meal really was notably good. Not just the food and drink, the entire experience was absolutely superb.
Just after I arrived at the pub, this gorgeous Turbo Beaver, C-GMNT, arrived and taxied over to a private island near the marina. About 45 minutes later, it left. I noticed something about it that has me scratching my head. Over the front float strut is a Wardair logo. I overheard a fellow at the next table say that the island is owned by a real estate developer, and I see online that the plane is owned by somebody in Langley, BC. What is the Wardair connection??
Heading back to Timberline, I decided to make a detour to check out a Recreation Site on the North Lake Road. The lake is quite pretty, and there are lots of homes along it.
When the sign just said that the Recreation Site was “ahead”, I turned around. In BC, it could be a long way ahead, and I was just mildly curious.
Timberline proved to be an excellent base for exploring. There are endless walking routes on old logging roads, and we never saw a vehicle even on the paved road past the RV park. The trees had shielded the rig from the sun so the kids were all comfortable when I got back from Egmont. At 8:00 that night, Bella and Tucker and I went out for another wander. The cabin next to our site now had an occupant.
A couple of blocks away there’s a very interesting property. This start on a stone castle was done many years ago, and the acre or so property has large concrete pillars for a fence all around it. I wonder why progress stopped. It reminded me, though, that back in the ’60s and early ’70s, the Sunshine Coast was Hippie Heaven, as well as draft-dodger heaven, and interesting characters abounded. The Sunshine Coast still has plenty of interesting characters, it seems – little “Hobbit houses” are seen scattered all through the forests.
At the back of the RV park there’s a multi-acre play area, but the grass was too long to be much fun. A sign on the red “toy box” at the right says “Please take down one side of net at night so elk don’t get caught in it.”
We hadn’t seen elk yet, but deer had come by twice already. These ones were in front of the rig just after we returned from our walk at about 9:00 pm.
When we went to bed, I was very excited about the next day – my Bucket List trip into Princess Louisa Inlet.