Farwell Canyon: Boondocking in the Desert

From the Blue Cedars Campground in Prince George, the next stop was one I’d been looking forward to since a friend from high school who lives in Williams Lake took me there last Fall. Farwell Canyon had pretty much everything that my perfect RV boondocking site requires. “Boondocking” is an RV term for camping in the backcountry (“the boondocks”) without any services.

On Sunday morning (May 1st), I took Bella and Tucker for a long walk along the Greenway Hiking Trail right outside the campground, then went back and finished getting set up to hit the road. By 10:30, we were well down BC Hwy 97, into a section of 4-laning construction. Highway 97 has several names in various areas – here, it’s the Cariboo Highway.

4-laning construction on BC Highway 97 near Quesnel.
I wasn’t in any hurry, so stopped at the Hush Lake Rest Area for a walk. It was a very pleasant place to spend a half-hour or so.

Hush Lake Rest Area, Cariboo Highway
At 1:40, we reached Williams Lake and the turn onto BC Hwy 20, our basic route for the next few days.

Junction of Highways 97 and 20 at Williams Lake, BC
Highway 20 makes a long climb out of Williams Lake, crosses the Fraser River on the Sheep Creek Bridge (seen below), then climbs some more, ending up on a rolling plateau that averages about 900 meters (2,950 feet) in elevation.

Highway 20 crosses the Fraser River on the Sheep Creek Bridge
At the little community of Riske Creek, a turn is made onto the 2000 Road, the Farwell Canyon Forest Service Road.

the little community of Riske Creek on BC Hwy 20
From the highway, it’s 21 km to Farwell Canyon on this good gravel road through cattle-ranching country.

The Farwell Canyon Forest Service Road, BC
The steep switch-backing drop to Farwell Canyon (the Chilcotin River) and back up again.

The Farwell Canyon Forest Service Road
The hills had beautiful new babies scattered all over them. I didn’t know that cows get babysitters – sometimes one cow would be watching over up to 8 calves.

New calf in BC's Cariboo
A bit of a preview of the dramatic hoodoos ahead.

Dramatic cliffs above the Chilcotin River in BC
The one-lane bridge across the Chilcotin River, with Farwell Canyon on the right.

Bridge across the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon, BC
Farwell Canyon and the Chilcotin River.

Farwell Canyon and the Chilcotin River, BC
What a camping spot! Unlike what happens at many such informal campsites, there was almost no litter anywhere (and when I left, there was none). It’s always great to see people respecting a place like this as it deserves.

RV at Farwell, Canyon, BC
I shot this for a Twitter post to my friends at Yukon Brewing: “There’s no ice fog at Farwell Canyon in May – you have to bring your own.” Yup, I’m pretty easy to amuse 🙂

Ice Fog - Yukon beer - at Farwell Canyon, BC
These two are so cute together. Tucker decided that to get a teeny drink it would be easiest to just lick Bella’s dripping muzzle after she’d just had a big one.

Murray's rescue dogs Tucker and Bella
I’ve never been able to stand driving a dirty bus! Was it ever hot – probably high 20s C (mid 80s F).

Washing my RV at Farwell Canyon, BC
Bella discovered cactus the hard way. In her foot, then tried to get it off with her mouth, and I got a few pokes helping her. I hadn’t seen any – there was just one little piece that must have gotten knocked off a big one like this that I found a few minutes later, overlooking the river.

Cactus overlooking BC's Chilcotin River
The long-abandoned homestead of Gordon “Mike” Farwell is a big part of the magic of Farwell Canyon for me. Mike bought the place in the early 1900s from the original settler, Louis Vedan. Farwell named the place “the Pothole Ranch”, and in 1912, teamed up with Gerald Blenkinsop. The both married and brought the wives to the Pothole Ranch – and their wives’ fragrant lilacs still bloom to evoke a gentler part of life out here.

Lilacs at Pothole Ranch, Farwell Canyon, BC
Some sort of bugs put in quite a show that evening as the sun was going down. I don’t know what these bugs were, but they didn’t bite or even bother me.

It was quite a surprise to hear logging trucks start going by at 03:30 on Monday morning. Now you might think that would be annoying given my peaceful location, but I really like trucks, and especially logging trucks, so it was mostly a new series of photo ops 🙂

Logging trucks in BC at night
As dawn started to break, the photo ops changed, but I ended up with a lot of photos of logging trucks during my Farwell Canyon stay.

Logging truck on the Farwell Canyon Road in BC

Logging truck on the Farwell Canyon Road in BC
Sunday night and Monday morning were so incredibly beautiful that I don’t even have words for it. The light was gorgeous, and gave a different look to everything than the afternoon light had. This is the Pothole Ranch fromm the bench I was camped on.

Pothole Ranch, Farwell Canyon, BC
The kids and I went for a fairly long walk, down a steep trail to the river downstream of the ranch. The hoodoos are possibly even more dramatic from river level. By the time we got back to the motorhome just after 09:30 it was already getting hot, so I decided to leave Bella and Tucker there while I went to explore the sand dunes visible above the canyon.

Farwell Canyon, BC
The unofficial trail to the dunes starts a couple of miles back up the Farwell Road towards the highway. It begins by going across this ravine, and cattle have used the trail a lot as well as creating their own.

The trail to the Farwell Canyon dunes, BC
I didn’t understand why cows would go down these fairly steep trails until I came to this shaded little creek – one of two. This would be quite an oasis for them, though I can’t imagine that water would be running for much longer as Spring turns into Summer.

A shaded little creek in Cariboo cattle country
Awesome hiking – probably high 70s already at just after 10:00, no bugs, and no people around for many miles.

Hiking in cattle country above Farwell Canyon, BC
Wow, what a place! The Pothole Ranch can be seen in the triangle at centre right.

The Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon, BC
I was a bit surprised to find that “the desert” is just a single dune, though a large and very cool dune. More of the dune system to the north has grown over, but this one is still very active – the footprints of the people I’d seen on the trail Sunday had been almost erased by the wind already.

Sand dune above Farwell Canyon, BC
This view of a possible return route from the dune made me think that I need to tell you some day about BC’s legendary animal the Sidehill Gouger…

Tracks og BC's Sidehill Gouger
This is my Farwell Canyon version of the “beach toes” photos that are such a standard feature of travel photo albums now 🙂

'Beach toes' at Farwell Canyon, BC
A bit of dune trekking.

I had been rather reluctant to leave the dune, and I’m not really sure what told me to get back, but not 10 minutes after I’d gotten back to the RV, my friend Sharon who had introduced me to this wonderful place, appeared at my door! She’d seen a Facebook post that Farwell Canyon was my next camping spot, and wanted to show it to a couple of other visitors as well.

The plan for Tuesday was a 6-hour circle drive through the Gang Ranch.


Farwell Canyon: Boondocking in the Desert — 3 Comments

  1. Loved Farwell Canyon thank you !
    Also the photo of the lone naked gardener after a long and rewarding day as gardening is always rewarding !
    Thank you Murray for the adventure

  2. The sidehill gouger has migrated and is in Colorado, too. I grew up looking for them until I was older and realized they were friends of the snipe-hunting crowd.