White Pass: 2 days canoeing and hiking to an unnamed valley

Pretty much ever since I started driving the South Klondike Highway between Whitehorse and Skagway in 1990, a particular valley to the east of Summit Lake near the White Pass summit has intrigued me. Clearly carved out by a massive glacier, spectacular peaks loom behind a series of waterfalls. The valley has no name, and even the mountains don’t have names. It’s a fairly popular place to go in the winter, usually by snowmobile, but nobody seems to visit the valley in the summer. Last week, though, a friend and I reached it on our second attempt by canoe and off-trail hiking, and the valley was even more wonderful than I’d imagined.

The map below is the feed from my Garmin inReach – click on it to go to an interactive map and trip report at Ramblr. Note that the routes on Day 1 and Day 2 are marked.

Map of hikes in the White Pass
After leaving the World War II Canol pipeline pump station described in my last post at about noon, Greg and I canoed back down Summit Lake, landing in a cove at what appeared to be the shortest route to the valley. The first photo was shot right at 1:00 pm, looking back up Summit Lake from the ridge above the cove where we stashed the canoe.

Summit Lake, BC
The large lake in the next photo has no name, and isn’t connected to Summit Lake. Finding a route around the countless lakes is part of the challenge, but navigating the granite ridges and cliffs is the biggest challenge.

An unnamed lake in the White Pass
It took us 50 minutes to hike from the canoe to the White Pass & Yukon Route railway.

The White Pass & Yukon Route railway in the White Pass
The bare granite provides wonderful hiking in places, and is incredibly varied. The little patches of sand may have been left thousands of years ago by the post-glacial lake that filled the valley. This is an HDR image to bring out the detail.

Bare granite in the White Pass.
A rather surprising number of flower species thrive among the granite in this land of extreme weather.

Flowers in the White Pass
I found this very odd moss (?) in one very small area. It looks like rusted steel wool.

This moss looks like rusted steel wool
The temperature had climbed to about 24°C (75°F), and Greg and I both took advantage of a couple of the smaller lakes/ponds we came to.

Swimming in a small lake in the White Pass
High above and far from the railway where such things are expected, I found a telegraph line. At this point I’m not sure what to make of that – was it laid by a company during the Klondike gold rush?

Telegraph line in the White Pass

By about 2:30 we had reached a vast area of thick brush that stopped us. Some people don’t mind bushwhacking to reach their destination – Greg and I do mind. After much contemplation, I decided on another route to try the next day, and we started back.

An oddity that we saw several of during the hike are balancing rocks left by the glaciers. Many of them had a single small rock supporting them as this one did – the main rock is almost 5 feet square.


Finding the canoe turned out to be a bit of a challenge – there are many little coves along Summit Lake, and none are very easy to get to. My inReach GPS would have made it easy if either one of us had brought our reading glasses so we could see the screen well. I had actually thought about bringing them that morning. Note to self… 🙂

Summit Lake in the White Pass
We went on quite a tour in our search for the canoe-cove, but once I spotted the unique pair of rocks seen in the first photo above, I knew where it was. We went for another dip and felt much better.

Ponds in the White Pass
By 5:30 we had stashed the canoe in a tiny cove at the mouth of Summit Creek and were walking back to the car for the 2-minute drive back to the motorhome. The beach at Summit Creek is the base for a canoe excursion aimed at cruise ship passengers, but the canoes didn’t move during the 3 full and 2 part days we were there.

Canoe excursion on Summit Lake
The sunrise on Thursday morning was spectacular, promising another amazing day to try for the unnamed valley. The next photo was shot at 04:50 from “Outhouse Hill”.

Sunrise in the White Pass
By 08:40 we were back at the mouth of Summit Creek (seen in the next photo), and a few minutes later were paddling down Summit Lake to a large bay on the east side.

The mouth of Summit Creek in the White Pass
At the mouth of the bay, this 10-foot-high granite boulder made me wonder what sort of forces could split it wide open.


A few minutes after stashing the canoe, we were at MP 23.8 of the rail line, where a boxcar used as a shelter, and a fuel tank for the bulldozers used to clear the line of snow each spring, are notable.

MP 23.8 of the WP&YR rail line
To the left of the fuel tank can be seen the wreckage of snow fences that used to give a small amount of protection to a couple of miles of the railway in this area. The gully to the left, at a spot called Gateway, is now filled but used to be crossed by a bridge.

MP 23.8 of the WP&YR rail line
Above the railway is this structure that appeared to me to have been used in surveying in some way. Posting the photo on my Yukon History and Abandoned Places group soon got the answer that it was an aerial survey marker for making maps.


Our initial bearing from the rail line was almost due south, aiming for a high, bare ridge that wraps around the southern side of the mouth of the valley we wanted to reach. To say that there’s no direct line is an understatement. Up and down, up and down, around and around and around…


To the left of Greg is an extremely old cairn, I expect marking a Klondike-era trail. I didn’t find any others.

An extremely old cairn in the White Pass
By 10:15 we were reasonably confident that the ridge we were aiming for was the route that would get us to the valley, to the upper left in the next photo.

Off-trail hiking in the White Pass
The higher we got on the ridge, the better it looked, but navigating around cliffs, ponds, and brush was a constant challenge.

Off-trail hiking in the White Pass
As remote as our location was, and as long as it had taken us to get there, the South Klondike Highway wasn’t all that far away as the raven flies.

The South Klondike Highway from a distant ridge
High on the ridge, we came to what I thought was a moose kill site. This is definitely not normal moose habitat.

A century-old moose or horse skeleton site in the White Pass
Judging by the amount of soil deposition around the ribcage, the skeleton has been there for a very long time – since the gold rush or perhaps even longer.

A century-old moose or horse skeleton site in the White Pass
This is a broad view of the site. I posted these photos to the Yukon Wildlife Viewing site and to my Yukon History and Abandoned Places group, and it’s been suggested that they may be horse bones, but also that moose do occasionally venture into places like that. Horses would tie into our discoveries of both the telegraph line and the cairn.

A century-old moose or horse skeleton site in the White Pass
As we got higher on the ridge and closer to the valley, there are some very large gullies full of brush that were hidden from lower elevations. Hiking up and around near their heads was always the best option.

Off-trail hiking in the White Pass
The power of this country is incredible. You might expect that this sort of hiking is frustrating because of the complicated navigation, but I find it exciting. Greg said a few times “I’ll just follow wherever you lead” 🙂

Off-trail hiking in the White Pass
This gorgeous slope of white heather was near the head of a small valley. At the creek beside it, now confident that we would reach our goal, we took a long lunch break. At this point, we had been running into game trails quite often, created by sheep and caribou.

A slope of white heather in the White Pass
At an elevation of about 1,100 meters (3,600 feet), we began to run into large patches of snow. The one in the next photo was over 8 feet deep.

July snow in the White Pass
At the highest point of the ridge we were climbing, I came over a bluff and was stunned by what I saw. I yelled back to Greg “I don’t know when it happened, but we seem to have died and gone to heaven.” The photo doesn’t do it justice at all. From this point, reaching the valley was easy.


I’d been wanting to reach the unnamed creek that flows out of our destination valley, and that was finally reasonable. We dropped down a bit and spent a long time at this spectacular spot.

An unnamed creek high above the White Pass

An unnamed creek high above the White Pass
This was a wonderful spot to play in the water! 🙂


I had set a time of 2:00 as the deadline for starting the hike back to the canoe. Fifteen minutes after leaving our play spot on the creek, we reached this beautiful waterfall. It was now 1:35.

A waterfall high above the White Pass
At 1:50, we reached the outer lip of the valley. We’d made it, and now we would just explore what we could. The valley steps up several times behind a series of glacial moraines.

A glacial valley high above the White Pass
High above us, the moraine of a glacier that has almost vanished was very impressive.

A glacial moraine high above the White Pass

The valley will require an overnight hike to explore properly – it’s both large and complex. What I’ve confirmed so far is that neither the lake nor the glacier shown on the government topos exist anymore. At 2:15 pm, we started back down.

We could soon see our objective – the fuel tank on the railway can be seen in the next photo. The hike back was much quicker than the hike up because we made few stops, and none of them were lengthy, although we did go for a couple more dips in small lakes along the way. I was very pleased that in this vast country, I was able to stay very close to or right on the route we had taken going up, often stepping on footprints made a few hours before – in the dry lichen we often crossed, they show up well.


At 6:05 pm, the canoe was once again stashed in the cove at the mouth of Summit Creek and we were walking back to the car. It had been 9 hours and 25 minutes since we started out from this point. Not bad for 2 guys in their 60s (Greg is 66, a little over a year younger than me).


We were already re-thinking our planned hike for the next day. Summit Creek Hill, a steep and challenging route right across the highway from the motorhome, had been the plan, but an easier option was being discussed.



White Pass Day 1: Canoeing to a World War II pipeline pump station

In the afternoon of July 3, my friend Greg from Haines arrived at my home, and we took the motorhome to the White Pass for a 4-night stay so we could go canoeing and hiking. On our first outing on July 4th, we canoed to the head of Summit Lake and made a short hike to the ruins of a Canol pipeline pump station along the White Pass & Yukon Route rail line.

I set up camp at my usual spot just south of the Summit Creek bridge on the South Klondike Highway. Although it’s right beside the highway, this part of the highway between the Canadian and American border posts is closed from midnight until 08:00. Even during the day, traffic is fairly light.


There’s a lengthy section of newly-resurfaced highway north of Fraser. It still has a lot of gravel on it, and a semi tossed a large one into my passenger-side windshield. It’s much too large to fix, and each side of the 2-piece windshield costs a few dollars short of $2,500 to replace. It’s the cost of having fun, but ouch.

Busted windshield in the RV
Right across the highway from the RV, behind a rock bluff, is a lovely series of ponds that make a wonderful spot to have a morning coffee.

A quiet spot in the White Pass
At about 09:30, I unhooked the Tracker from the motorhome, and we drove a mile north to launch the canoe at a spot where the highway goes close to the lake (there’s no boat launch on Summit Lake). I paddled up the lake, and Greg drove back to Summit Creek and walked down to meet me at the beach at the mouth of Summit Creek. By 10:30 we were well on our way up the lake. The plan was to beach the canoe near the head of the lake, about 4 km from Summit Creek.

Summit Lake, in the White Pass, BC

I’ve opened an account at Ramblr, and an interactive map of this trip is now there titled “Summit Lake – WWII pump station“.

We found a good spot to beach the canoe near the site of the Canadian Shed (more about that later), and we climbed up above the railway. There are still artifacts and wreckage dating right back to the Klondike gold rush all over this area, and trying to guess what it was is part of the fun for me. In the next photo, the railway is on the left and the head of Summit Lake can be seen in the distance.

Along the White Pass & Yukon Route railway at Summit Lake
One train arrived at the summit shortly after we did, and when another arrived, the first one backed up to our location to let the other one do the necessary switching. Most people off the cruise ships just take the shortest train ride, to the summit and back to Skagway. At the summit, the locomotives are moved to the opposite end so they’re back at the front of the train for the trip down.

WP&YR train at Summit Lake, BC
What a surprise when the WP&YR crew member (conductor?) turned out to be someone that Greg knows from Haines! Mike came over and we chatted for a couple of minutes while the switching was being done. The passenger car behind Mike is one of 2 luxury Club Cars on the line now. I got to ride in one in 2014 on a special trip to honour my long-time friend Boerries Burkhardt, a dedicated WP&YR railfan from Germany.

WP&YR train at Summit Lake, BC
The next photo looks north at the site of the Canadian shed, a 1,064-foot-long snowshed that was demolished in the 1980s.

The site of the Canadian shed, a 1,064-foot-long snowshed that was demolished in the 1980s.
We walked along the granite above the rail line, and there was wood everywhere, I expect much of it from the snowshed. The next view looks south at the Canadian shed cut.

The site of the Canadian shed, a 1,064-foot-long snowshed that was demolished in the 1980s.
Most of the pipeline between Whitehorse and Skagway was removed in the late 1990s, but small sections can still be found in many locations. A brief history of this pipeline follows.

The Canol No. 2 pipeline
In 1942, the US army constructed a 4½-inch OD above-grade pipeline (Canol No. 2) from Whitehorse to Skagway. This pipeline, a tank farm in Whitehorse, and pump stations at Carcross and Summit Lake, comprised part of the larger Canol pipeline project, constructed to transport, refine, and distribute liquid hydrocarbons from Norman Wells for use in the Yukon and Alaska during World War II. The US army owned and initially operated the facilities. The White Pass and Yukon Corp. began operating Canol No. 2 in 1947, reversing the flow to supply Whitehorse and the Yukon with gasoline, diesel, and fuel oil shipped by sea to Skagway from Vancouver. In 1949, the US army resumed operating the pipeline, transporting White Pass fuels as well as their own. White Pass purchased Canol No. 2 from the US and Canadian governments in transactions from 1958 to 1961 and became the sole shipper via the pipeline. White Pass operated the Canol No. 2 pipeline from 1962 until 1994 with only minor modifications, and it was then shut down.

Map of the CANOL pipelines
Pipeline technology was in its infancy when the Canol was built. Pipe was simply laid on the ground and welded. Spills were common and often very large. The photo below (National Archives of Canada, Finnie collection) shows a section of the 6-inch main pipeline from the Norman Wells oilfield to the Whitehorse refinery.

Building the CANOL pipeline
At the pump station site just north of the Canadian shed cut, this wooden tower is the only thing visible from the rail line now. Carl Mulvihill says in his “White Pass & Yukon Route Handbook” that this structure was access to a pipeline pump valve – it’s high because of the deep snows there.

Pump station along the Canol No. 2 pipeline between Whitehorse and Skagway.
The sight of a few blocks of concrete lured us further from the rail line.

Pump station along the Canol No. 2 pipeline between Whitehorse and Skagway
This is the foundation of the main pump station building. I have not yet found any information about this pump station other than the fact that it was part of the initial Canol construction. So much to research, so little time… 🙂

Pump station along the Canol No. 2 pipeline between Whitehorse and Skagway
A closer look at the primary foundation.

Pump station along the Canol No. 2 pipeline between Whitehorse and Skagway
This great little freight wagon is still sitting there, saved by its very remote location.

A great little freight wagon at the pump station along the Canol No. 2 pipeline between Whitehorse and Skagway
This garbage dump is right beside the pumping station foundation.

Pump station along the Canol No. 2 pipeline between Whitehorse and Skagway
This is a sampling of the bottles that are laying around – the middle one is a very distinctive ketchup bottle. We didn’t remove anything from the site.

Bottles at the pump station along the Canol No. 2 pipeline between Whitehorse and Skagway
A broader view of the site. I should have had the drone to get a good look at it all.

Pump station along the Canol No. 2 pipeline between Whitehorse and Skagway
Several other buildings were scattered over quite a wide area around the pumping station.

Pump station along the Canol No. 2 pipeline between Whitehorse and Skagway
Walking back towards the canoe just before noon, two trains arrived from the north, fairly close together.

A White Pass & Yukon Route train at MP 21
Having a train in the Canadian shed cut makes it easy to see that building a roof over it to keep the snow out would have been a fairly simple job.

A White Pass & Yukon Route train at the Canadian shed cut.

A White Pass & Yukon Route train at the Canadian shed cut.
Very pleased with what I’d found, we paddled back down Summit Lake in search of a route to an unnamed valley to the east. That search would take us 2 days.

Summit Lake, in the White Pass, BC


A holiday weekend at Kluane Lake with a family of grizzly bears

My stay at home after the 59-day wander around BC and western Alberta was very short – 4 days. Then, despite mediocre weather forecasts, we made another drive out to Congdon Creek Campground at Kluane Lake for 4 nights over the Canada Day long weekend. It turned out to be a few days of exceptional encounters with grizzly bears.

The 4 days at home were busy ones, with many jobs to get done, but I also took advantage of the sunny periods.

Murray Lundberg, home in Whitehorse after a 2-month RV trip
On the drive out to Congdon Creek Thursday night, there was a large male grizzly in this patch of flowers along Kluane Lake, but I didn’t get any photos of him. I took this photo of the flowers the next day.

Bird vetch (Vicia cracca) in the Yukon
On the left is Dwarf fireweed (Chamerion latifolium, a.k.a. River Beauty Willowherb), and on the right is the other flower, which I don’t have a name for yet, but which is quite often confused with Dwarf fireweed at highway speeds.

Wildflowers at Kluane Lake, Yukon
On Friday morning, we drove the Tracker back to our favourite beach on Kluane, at the large pullout at Km 1642.1 of the Alaska Highway. It’s a great place to play with the dogs on the sand and fine gravels.

Beach on Kluane Lake
After dinner on Friday night we went out grizzly-hunting, and were rewarded almost immediately, just a couple of hundred meters from the campground entrance. This beautiful sow and second-year cubs are the same family we spent time with here last July.

Grizzly bears crossing the Alaska Highway at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Grizzly bears beside the Alaska Highway at Kluane Lake, Yukon
We continued on looking for other bears, and when we returned a half-hour later, the family was walking up Congdon Creek toward the mountains.

Grizzly bears at Congdon Creek, Yukon
One cub suddenly dropped and rolled over. Odd. Then the other one laid down as well. Mom tried to convince them to continue, but it was apparently nap time, so she gave up and had one as well! 🙂

Grizzly bears at Congdon Creek, Yukon
It was very windy, and we had taken a camp site in the sheltering forest rather than one of the lakefront sites we usually prefer. We drove back towards the Slims River, where high winds can cause very impressive dust storms. They were!

Dust storm on the Slims River flats at KLuane Lake
Just ahead of the campervan in the next photo is the Slims River bridge, hidden in the dust.

Dust storm on the Slims River flats at KLuane Lake
Looking up the Slims River.

Dust storm on the Slims River flats at KLuane Lake
Back at the campground entrance, the sight of vehicles parked along the highway took us back to our little family.

Grizzly bears beside the Alaska Highway at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Mom led the way down towards the beach, a location where we had never seen bears before. As the place they were going is a popular place for tenters, I followed them down in the Tracker to see if anyone needed assistance.

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon
There were no tenters, but a small camper was there, and a couple waking along the beach yelled to let us know about the bears. We stayed far back from the bears so we didn’t disturb what turned into quite a play session.

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Something suddenly spooked the bears, and off they ran, away from the camping area. When we drove back up to the highway, the couple we’d seen on the beach was walking our way, along the shoulder of the highway. They were obviously headed to the campervan, and we told them that the bears had left, but led them back to their van for safety, just in case.

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon
It was now 8:30 pm, and I took the next photo just before pulling back onto the highway to return to our motorhome.

Flowers along the Alaska Highway at Kluane Lake
On Saturday morning, the wind had calmed down and I moved the RV down to a lakefront campsite that had opened up. Then it was time for a dog-walk on the beach there, and the meadows along it.

Beach on Kluane Lake, Yukon

Meadow beside Kluane Lake, Yukon
Kluane Lake has dropped about another foot from its record low last summer. This has been caused by the re-routing of the headwaters of the Slims River due to the recession of the Kaskawulsh Glacier – the Slims is the largest river feeding into the lake, and is now down to a fraction of the flow it used to have.

Beach on Kluane Lake, Yukon
Bella thoroughly enjoyed another chance to get wet 🙂

Dog swimming in Kluane Lake, Yukon
Late Saturday afternoon, some impressive thunderstorms were building along the lake, and rain was falling up by the Slims River.

Thunderstorm on Kluane Lake, Yukon

Rainstorm on Kluane Lake, Yukon
The storms never reached us, and Saturday evening was a particularly fine one, enjoying a BBQ and campfire.

Murray and Cathy at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Camping at Congdon Creek, Yukon
We picked up our first rodent hitchhikers in the RV somewhere, probably in Whitehorse during the layover. We drove into Destruction Bay but they had no mouse traps, so I MacGyvered a mouse trap of the sort we used to build in the Overwaitea Foods warehouse 35-odd years ago. I caught both mice overnight. It’s not a catch-and-release, they drown in the bucket – I really hate doing it, but they can’t live in my motorhome.

Improvised mouse trap in the RV
We planned to take in a bit of the Canada Day celebrations in Haines Junction, but got there just as everything was shutting down. We consoled ourselves with soft ice cream cones from Frosty’s – the fur-kids approved 🙂

Sharing ice cream with the dogs
Back at the campground entrance, our grizzly family was back feeding!

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon
This time, the cubs led the way down to the beach, where they had another wonderful play-date.

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon
We spent about 20 minutes with them (about half a kilometer away so as not to disturb them), then returned to our campsite.

Grizzly bears at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Monday was our final morning at Congdon Creek, and it started off in a dramatic way, but once again the rain didn’t reach us.

Stormy morning at Congdon Creek Campground at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Stormy morning at Congdon Creek Campground at Kluane Lake, Yukon
At Congdon Creek Campground, people are adapting to the grizzlies, not the other way around. More than half of the campground was closed many years ago to protect an important feeding area. The open cookhouse/shelter has now been closed so as not to attract the grizzlies to it.

Congdon Creek Campground at Kluane Lake, Yukon
The most recent and important adaptation has been the construction of an electrified enclosure for tenters – tenting (including soft-sided tent trailers) had been banned at Congdon Creek for many years.

Congdon Creek Campground at Kluane Lake, Yukon
The new enclosure has been getting very good reviews. A couple from New Hampshire that I talked to while taking these photos was extremely pleased with it – they had planned on sleeping in their small car at “the most beautiful campground [they] had seen.” 🙂

Congdon Creek Campground at Kluane Lake, Yukon
We pulled away from the campground just after 11:00 am, and didn’t get very far before finding another grizzly – this time an old male we hadn’t seen yet this year.

Grizzly bear at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Grizzly bear at Kluane Lake, Yukon
We weren’t nearly ready to go home yet, so stopped at our favourite beach again. We ended up staying there for about 4 hours.

Dogs playing at Kluane Lake, Yukon
We got driven into the shelter of the RV by a couple of brief rainstorms, but more often, we were watching storms across the lake while we were in sunshine.

Cathy and Murray at Kluane Lake, Yukon

After stopping for dinner at a new restaurant on the highway in Whitehorse, we were home by about 7:00 pm. I had about 16 hours to get the rig and myself ready to head out again, for 4 nights in the White Pass for hiking and canoeing with a buddy from Haines.



RV Life: Costs and Experiences during 59 Days on the Road

We got home from our 59-day RV trip around British Columbia and western Alberta on June 23rd. We’ve already been on another 5-day outing to Kluane Lake, which allowed me time to finish off my blog posts from the big trip, and now I want to finish off the story of the big trip by giving you a global look at it, including a summary of costs that may help you with RV trip planning. I posted summaries like this for the 2016 trip (56 days in BC and western Alberta), and the 2017 trip (61 days, with a Vancouver Island focus).

The Route

We travelled 4,891 miles (7,871 kilometers) in the motorhome, another 3,023 in the Tracker. The map below shows our basic route – click on it to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map of 59-day BC/Alberta RV trip

The RV & Toad

We still love our motorhome, but will make some changes when we buy another one some day. Before leaving in April, I stripped the carpet out and laid vinyl tile – we’re very happy with that big change. As well as having no carpeting, the next motorhome will have an Arctic package with double-glazed windows. Other than those 2 things, we would buy the same rig again (though GM no longer makes an RV chassis).

The motorhome is a 2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M, a 31-foot-long Class A with 2 slideouts. It’s on a Chevy Workhorse chassis, powered by an 8.1-liter Vortex gas engine, with an Allison automatic transmission with overdrive. You can see a full tour of it as well as a discussion about our lengthy shopping process here. The photo below was shot along the Alaska Highway on our first day of this year’s trip, April 28th. I bought the kayak last Spring, and although I don’t use it as much as I thought I would, it’s great to have it when I do want it.

RV, Tracker and kayak on the road

The Costs

The total spent during the 59 days was $10,185.77, with fuel making up 41% of that.

Fuel costs were much higher this year due to much higher pump prices. We spent $3,599.35 for 2,627 liters (578 Imperial gallons, 694 US gallons) of gas for the RV, which got 8.5 miles per Imperial gallon. We also spent $565.18 for 417.7 liters of gas in the Tracker, which got 20.4 mpg. The average price of gas was $1.363 per liter, with the lowest being Airdrie, Alberta, at $1.234, and the highest being Dease Lake at $1.619. That average is 24 cents per liter higher than last year.

Two propane fills for the furnace and stove cost a total of $70.90.

We stayed at rest areas, pullouts, and parking lots for 18 nights – costing a total of $0
We stayed at Municipal campgrounds for 4 nights, costing a total of $133.50.
We stayed at Provincial Park campgrounds for 6 nights, costing a total of $147.00.
We stayed at a National Park campground for 3 nights, costing a total of $125.60.
We stayed at commercial campgrounds for 27 nights, costing a total of $1,029.34.
The total cost for 58 nights accommodation was $1,426.44, an average of $24.59 per night.

Attractions and tours: $287.35

I spent $246.75 in Calgary to rent a motorcycle for a day, plus $43.86 for 29 liters of gas for it.

We spent $1,107.44 on restaurant meals, $203.26 on beer and wine, and $972.65 on groceries for meals we cooked ourselves.

We spent $857.62 on repairs and maintenance – $188.09 for a failed electric control module that I replaced myself, $214.20 for slide maintenance at a shop, $199.85 for an oil change on the RV, and $255.48 to replace failed sway bar links on the Tracker. For $99.99 I added a tool set that won’t leave the RV, another $99.99 got a vacuum, and I spent $67.19 for an inverter to charge the laptop, and $13.85 for a little clock.

“Working”

I spent about 130 hours writing 43 blog posts with over 1,160 photos (of the 5,295 photos in my folders after editing). The first post of the trip was on April 28th.

The Experiences

As usual, the list of memorable places and events during the trip is lengthy, but family time was what made this one very special. Camping at New Denver with one of my sisters and her husband, attending all of the events surrounding my twin grand-daughters’ high-school graduation in Airdrie, and camping at Cochrane and a day in the Rockies on motorcycles with my son are the things that will make this trip unforgettable.

I spent more time than ever at my 6 main target areas – the Fraser Canyon, the Kootenays, Crowsnest Pass, the David Thompson Highway, Tumbler Ridge, and Stewart, but in every case, this has just whetted my appetite for even more.

We had a few campground reservations, but really didn’t need to make any – no campground we went to was anywhere close to full. We averaged 133 km (83 miles) per day in the motorhome, our lowest yet by a small margin. The slower we get, the better the trips are – over and over again, we still said “I wish we could stay longer…” While we also averaged 51 km per day in the Tracker, those are wandering/exploring miles so don’t count in the same way.



Although I’ll be back into BC at least a couple more times this year (to Stewart and Muncho Lake, I hope), we’ll be in the Yukon for most of the rest of the summer.

Murray and Cathy at Kluane Lake, Yukon



The final leg, driving from Stewart to Whitehorse

On Day 58 of the trip – Friday, June 22nd – we began the drive from Stewart to our home in Whitehorse, via the Glacier Highway (Highway 37A), the Stewart-Cassiar (Highway 37), and the Alaska Highway. I expected that we’d overnight somewhere along the way – Boya Lake if the weather was good enough – but sometimes I get get-home-itis on that last stretch and push through.

The weather forecast for our homecoming was certainly not what I’d hoped for. But I had a lot of work to do when I got home anyway, so it didn’t really matter.

Weather in Whitehorse, Yukon
At 09:50 we passed by Bell Two Lodge, a gorgeous place that Cathy and I stayed at a few years ago. I had plenty of gas to reach Dease Lake, so no stop was required.


North of Bell 2, I encountered a line-painting crew. One of the vehicles had an odd warning sign on the back – I wonder if any drivers had tried to follow his directions? 🙂


The bridge across Devils Creek is one of the last steel-arch, metal-deck bridges on the Stewart-Cassiar.

The bridge across Devils Creek, Stewart-Cassiar Highway
By 11:30 I was at a rough piece of road south of Iskut. Slumping of the hill here has been a big problem since the road was built.


The Kluachon gas station at Iskut has been advertising quite heavily, and I decided to give them a try instead of filling at Dease Lake as I always have. When I saw the price, I changed my mind. The price at Dease Lake was indeed 10 cents per liter cheaper – on a fill of almost 200 liters, that’s a lot of money that was almost wasted.

Stewart-Cassiar Highway
The view north right at Km 545 (measured from Kitwanga, the south end of the highway).

The view north right at Km 545 of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
This wide, paved pullout was perfect for a long dog walk at 4:00 pm.


It’s been interesting watching this forest grow after a forest fire swept through the area about 25 years ago.


There are very nice rest areas at the Cottonwood River, on the old highway on each side of the river.


Many people expect to find a community at Jade City, but it’s just a small tourist complex built around a rock shop, and a Highways camp.

Jade City, on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
Just before 6:00 pm, we reached the “Welcome to Yukon” sign. After 58 days away, that crossing felt very good.


When we reached the huge rest area at the Continental Divide, I stopped to walk the dogs, and just couldn’t get going again. We’d been on the go for almost 12 hours at that point, and we’d all had enough. We camped there for the night.

We were on the road just after 04:00 on Saturday morning so we’d be home before Cathy went into town for a hair appointment. I was surprised to find so many people parked overnight at the Teslin Lake rest area.

Teslin Lake rest area, Alaska Highway
This was the view from my living room at 08:00. In 59 days, we had put 7,871 kilometers on the motorhome, and another 3,023 on the Tracker. It had been an exceptional trip, and I’ll write up a detailed summary of costs and experiences in the next few days.




Exploring the Granduc Road to the Salmon Glacier and beyond

On Day 57 of the trip – Thursday, June 21st – the dogs and I drove past Stewart, through Hyder, and up the spectacular Granduc Road. Most people turn around at the Salmon Glacier viewpoint, but we continued on to the site of the Granduc copper mine where I worked 43 years ago. A memorable encounter with a family of grizzly bears changed my plans for a long hike above the Salmon Glacier. This was the most thorough look I’ve yet had at sites along the Granduc Road, and there are 59 photos in this post.

There used to be a high-quality 13-page brochure available for the Granduc Road drive, but it went out of print a few years ago. I’ve scanned a copy and posted it here (pdf, 2.3 MB). My focus for this day was the area beyond the Salmon Glacier viewpoint at Km 37.0 from downtown Stewart. Snow or mining activity had prevented me from getting to the Granduc Mine site since 2002.

By 09:30 as we were ready to leave for the day’s adventures, the Bear River RV Park had largely emptied out. Most people just come into Stewart for a quick look, stay one night, and continue on.

Bear River RV Park at Stewart, BC
The weather forecast was calling for cloudy with showers, but this is the way the drive began, along the large estuary.

The estuary at Stewart, BC
This is the view back towards Stewart from the marina. The road for a couple of hundred feet at that point is called the Hyder Bridge because it’s completely built on pilings.

The Hyder Bridge at Stewart, BC
Entering Hyder, Alaska. There is no border post for the entry into the United States there, but Canada Customs has a post to return to Canada.

Entering Hyder, Alaska
Our first stop was a quick one at this very scenic beaver-heightened marsh just past Hyder. I took a couple of photos with the 24-105mm lens that’s normally on my camera, then got out of “lazy” mode and switched to my 10-18mm lens to get it all in.

Marsh along the Granduc Road - Hyder, Alaska
A few days of very warm weather had helped the Salmon River reach a substantial flow level. Periodic releases of a glacier-dammed lake used to fill the channel every few years, but that seems to have not happened for many years.

The Salmon River along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
At 10:45 we were nearing the Salmon Glacier, and the view back down the valley was very impressive. It’s hard to believe now that this was my daily route to work on a bus every day in 1975.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
That lovely clear blue kettle pond beside the silty Salmon River has always intrigued me, but it would be extremely difficult to get down to it. A kettle pond is formed by a huge block of ice that melts away over a period of several years, during which time river gravels have built up around it.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
The “Toe of Salmon Glacier” viewpoint is 27.7 km from Stewart. The toe, also known as the glacier’s snout or terminus, is the lowest point on the glacier.

The Toe of Salmon Glacier viewpoint on the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
A marmot joined us for a couple of minutes at that viewpoint. Tucker sometimes goes crazy barking and even screaming in response to animals showing up, but he’s extremely good when I tell him softly to be quiet (and keep reminding and praising him). Even with his window open and the marmot 20 feet away, Tucker didn’t make a sound.

Marmot along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
The Salmon Glacier is the fifth largest in North America, though it has shrunk dramatically since I first saw it. I’ve posted two photos from 1975 and two from 2015 to show that retreat – see “Retreat of BC’s Salmon Glacier, 1975 – 2015“.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
The road was in the worst condition I’d seen it, with long stretches of deep potholes. I’d seen tire tracks of some people turning around, and the snow that we reached at 11:15 prompted more U-turns. A rental motorhome from Alaska, though, was still pounding up the hill.

Snow on the Granduc Road in late June - Stewart, BC
We continued on past the main Salmon Glacier viewpoint – we’d stop there on the way back.
Meltwater from the northern tongue of the glacier, as well as several creeks, creates Summit Lake. In the next photo, Summit Lake in the distance is completely filled or covered with glacial ice. It used to break through the glacier so regularly that it was called Tide Lake when I worked here.

Salmon Glacier - Stewart, BC
One of the sites that I wanted to have a good look at was the old mining exploration camp site where John Carpenter’s science-fiction thriller The Thing was filmed in 1982. A Web site for fans of the film is run by Todd Cameron at Outpost31.com and a connected Facebook page is very active. I’ve been occasionally assisting the group since 2002 with information about access to the site – members do visit from all over the world, and a 40th Anniversary trip is being organized for June 2022.

Filming site of John Carpenter's science-fiction thriller The Thing along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Bella and Tucker were due for a play, and this little canyon served that purpose perfectly. I carried Tucker across the main braid of the creek so they could play in a large patch of snow.

Dog playing in a creek along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
I decided to have a brief look at part of the filming site next. I hadn’t planned on going very far, so didn’t put the kids on leash, nor did I take my bear spray. Do you see where this is going?

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
The old road lured me on, through a small creek with particularly colourful rocks…

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
I looked up at the ridge beside us as a sow grizzly and two second-year cubs came over it. They were perhaps 200 feet away. I started yelling at Bella and Tucker and waving my arms over my head as I backed away, and they came to me immediately. The cubs both quickly disappeared off the ridgeline but mom stayed there while she assessed what all the noise was about. After a minute or so, she went back behind the ridge as well. Bella and Tucker were so focussed on me that they never did see the bears, which is exactly what I wanted. When we were about halfway back to the car, not even close to being safe yet, mom appeared over the ridge again, and I took the next photo.

Grizzly along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Once we were a hundred feet or so from the Tracker, I let the kids have a good play while I calmed down. Because I wasn’t planning to go far from the car, I had done two things that I never do – go into an area like that with the dogs off-leash, and go without bear spray. A month ago, a woman in Whitehorse had both of her off-leash dogs killed by a bear she encountered on a trail. We got lucky, and I’ll never put us in that situation again – we meet bears far too often.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
The next photo shows the filming site as we drove back up to the Granduc Road.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Along the access road is this “powder magazine” (for explosives) from the mining days, in the late 1970s, I believe.

An old powder magazine along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Looking in the opposite direction from the powder magazine, this was the view.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Continuing north along the Granduc Road, I made photo stops often. This was the view looking back to the Salmon Glacier from above Summit Lake.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
It looked like we might get stopped by a rockfall, but there was room to get by.

Rockfall on the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Looking down on Summit Lake. The textures of this country are incredible.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
In the lower right of the next photo, you can see one of the most memorable parts of the bus ride – a mile-long tunnel.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Because of extremely deep snow accumulations along the slopes to the left, this tunnel was cut in about 1970 to get vehicles through.

Tunnel for vehicles on the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC

Tunnel for vehicles on the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Driving around the tunnel, those deep snow accumulations still happen. There was just barely enough room to get by, and that probably just opened in the past few days. Many vehicles had clearly turned around here.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC

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Between the tunnel and the Granduc Mine, there are at least two other old mines, probably from the 1970s or ’80s. I need to pull the BC Ministry of Mines reports to find some information about them before my next visit.

Old mine along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC

Old mine along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
This is the north end of the vehicle tunnel. From the “T” in the foreground, cords hung that drivers would pull to open air-powered doors which sealed the tunnel. The blue building blasted into the cliff behind the Tracker housed the compressors that powered those doors.

Tunnel for vehicles on the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Here’s a closer look at the second of the two mines I need to research. Access to them is fairly easy.

Old mine along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
It looked like I might be able to drive right to the adit seen below us in the next photo (an adit has one entry point to the surface, while a tunnel has one at each end).

Old mine along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
The Granduc copper mine is below the road to the left here.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
At this location, there was a man-camp that housed about 500 people. Many of the employees with families chose to live in Stewart as I did – the company had apartments, townhouses, and single-family homes available, most of which have been abandoned since the mine closed in the mid-1980s.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
From the slope above where the man-camp was, this was the view of the mine access tunnel and mill, and the Berendon Glacier.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Another mine exploration camp opened in fairly recent years, but appears to be abandoned as well, though there are “No Trespassing” signs.

Granduc Mine site - Stewart, BC
This was the Granduc mill, and the buildings where we got ready to board an underground railway that took us some 15 miles – under 7 glaciers, if I remember correctly – to the work areas.

Granduc Mine site - Stewart, BC
The Berendon Glacier is the arm on the left – the one on the right, flowing from a different icefield, has no name.

Berendon Glacier on the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC

Berendon Glacier on the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
I drove past the Granduc Mine a mile or so, then decided that there was no point. There’s a vast area of relatively little interest, and it’s more suitable for a multi-day exploration. I was in that area a couple of times in 1975, as that’s where the Granduc airfield was, and where the best grizzly viewing consistently was, so I took a couple of visitors there. I’d seen all the grizzlies I cared to this day.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
The swath along the distant slope is a power line built about 5 years ago.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Heading back towards Stewart, I drove down to the adit I’d seen. All of the old mines close to Stewart have been stripped of equipment by collectors – only the extra distance has left this one fairly intact for now.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Judging by the thickness of that concrete base, this mine was doing basic processing of the ore before shipping it. My guess at this point, judging from the scale of the mines, is that they were mining gold or silver.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
This twin waterfall forms the backdrop to the mine seen in the two photos above. I could easily spend an entire day exploring here.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
With my major goals for the day well in hand, it was time to start looking at the smaller things. Like waterfalls, of which there are many, even beside the road. Some emerge from canyons that offer intriguing exploration possibilities when water and snow levels are lower.

A waterfall along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Other waterfalls just drop from cliffs, both natural and man-made, beside the road.

A waterfall along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
One of the waterfalls offered a shower that I just couldn’t resist. Yes, it was cold! 🙂

Taking a shower in a waterfall along the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
The long hike that I’d planned before the grizzly encounter was along the original Granduc Road, which is much lower on the slopes above the Salmon Glacier. The access to the old road is from the filming location I’d been exploring. The road was moved higher because of the number of avalanches on the lower slopes. I’ve looked for but been unable to find a date for that relocation, but I can see by the angle of the photos I’ve shot that in 1975, we were still driving the lower road. A rockslide made driving beyond this point impossible, and I’d rather lost interest in a hike anyway – among other things, we’d already been on the go for over 5 hours by then.

The old Granduc Road above the Salmon Glacier - Stewart, BC
What a place! After a long stop and short dog-walk, I was able to get the Tracker turned around right at the rockslide, and we headed back to the main Granduc Road.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
This dramatic little canyon is along the old road. That would be a great walk later in the summer.

A dramatic little canyon along the old Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
A well-camouflaged ptarmigan on a cliff just above the road.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
At the main Salmon Glacier viewpoint, I spent quite a while talking to the wife of the new doctor in Stewart. Many doctors pass quickly through remote communities like Stewart, staying only long enough to get the immigration credits they need to move to a larger centre. I was really pleased to hear that they plan to stay – Stewart deserves people who have that as their goal. The dogs and I then climbed up above the viewpoint.

The main Salmon Glacier viewpoint - Stewart, BC
Among the granite above the viewpoint is this pleasant little meadow, which I expect would soon be filled with wildflowers.

A lush meadow above the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Bella hates gravel roads, so wasn’t having a good time driving back to Stewart, but little Tucker never tires of Adventure.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Another mine, or mine exploration property, that I want to have a good look at is this one at about Km 23. If nothing else, those roads may offer great hiking.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
One area on the Granduc Road has always been bad for slides. The next photo shows the layers of gravels above it, from when the bed of the creek was some 400 higher than it is now.

Old creek gravel layers above the Granduc Road - Stewart, BC
Back in Hyder, I stopped just long enough to get a photo of this store that didn’t survive last winter’s snow load.

Granduc Road - Stewart, BC

The crossing back into Canada was quick and simple. The officer asked what took me to Hyder and I replied that I simply passed through Hyder to get to the mine I worked at 43 years ago. “Have a nice day.” 🙂

The next day would be our push to get home. It might be a one-day drive, maybe two.



Kayaking to the Bear Glacier near Stewart

Once I reach Smithers, I always feel like I’m almost home. With the right motivation, I could make that drive in one day. I was going to spend 2, possibly 3, more nights on the road, though. On Day 56 of the trip – Wednesday, June 20th – I drove to Stewart for 2 nights. On the way, I stopped at the Bear Glacier and launched my kayak to get up to and on it.

The map shows the entire route home from Smithers, with the side trip into Stewart. Prince Rupert had been on the draft itinerary as well, but I had decided that Prince Rupert is the sort of place where I want Cathy with me to get the best experience. Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - from Smithers to Stewart and Whitehorse
I had gotten away from the Glacier View RV Park fairly early, and at 09:45 was at Kitwanga, ready to turn north from Highway 16 onto Highway 37, the Stewart-Cassiar. I topped off my gas tank at the Petro-Canada station at the junction – that would get me to Dease Lake.

Kitwanga, the junction of Highway 16 onto Highway 37, the Stewart-Cassiar
Work is progressing well to replace the wonderful one-lane logging bridge over the Nass River. The new concrete structure will be safe and efficient, but will have none of the current bridge’s character.

Replacing the Nass River Bridge on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
At 12:20, I reached the Bear Glacier. Although it filled the valley not that many decades ago, it’s now separated from the highway by Strohn Lake.

Bear Glacier - Stewart, BC
The first thing on the schedule was playing in Strohn Lake with Bella and Tucker. It’s pretty easy to get Bella swimming, but I was quite amazed when Tucker swam briefly to fetch a stick as well. The water comes from the Bear Glacier a kilometer away from where we were playing, so yes, it’s very cold!

Shelty/husky cross Bella swimming in glacial Strohn Lake
With the kids wet and happy, and afternoon nap was in order before I set off on my little adventure. Just after 3:00, I pulled the kayak off the roof of the Tracker and launched it. The temperature was about 28°C (82°F).


It doesn’t show in the next photo, but there was a fairly strong wind blowing from the glacier, and I had to keep clearing spray from my camera lens. The boat launching spot is right where Strohn Creek drains the lake – at full Spring flow now, the current was strong enough that I had to paddle up the lake away from the creek a few hundred feet before crossing. This felt so incredibly good – it had been on my list of things that needed to be done for a few years.

Kayaking to Bear Glacier - Stewart, BC
In less than 15 minutes, the kayak was securely stowed behind some alder and I was at the outflow creek from the glacier. Someone had recently beached a canoe where I landed – probably the previous day. It’s been many years since I’ve seen a boat on Strohn Lake, so having 2 boats in 2 days is funny.

Outflow creek from the Bear Glacier
The retreat of the Bear Glacier in the 43 years I’ve been watching it is quite incredible. When I first saw it in 1975, it reached into Strohn Lake. Now, it’s quite a walk to reach the ice. I’ve posted a few photos to show its retreat since I first saw it in 1975 – see “Retreat of BC’s Bear Glacier, 1975 – 2015“.

Bear Glacier - Stewart, BC
This was the view I’d been wanting to get. The ice has now pulled back into a partial canyon – on the side I was on, the walls were too steep to get down to the creek for the photos I wanted.

Bear Glacier - Stewart, BC
On the side furthest away from me, this ice arch has formed. The opening is about 30 feet across, and the chunks of ice show that it’s rapidly falling apart. These arches are signs of a retreating glacier – a dying glacier. The high water content of the ice around the under-glacier steams makes it the densest, so it’s the last to melt away as the glacier retreats.

Bear Glacier - Stewart, BC
This short video gives a better idea of the scene, with the strong wind and raging creek making a great deal of noise.


The ice-scoured granite is great to walk on. Much of it is too steep, though, so I more often walked up the gravels and rocks of the lateral moraine as I made my way up alongside the glacier.

Bear Glacier - Stewart, BC
The first couple of places where I was able to reach the ice were too steep to climb, but I eventually found a spot here I could get up on the glacier. A short walk showed the fairly small section of the lower part of the glacier where I was to be a safe place to do that – there’s no hint of cracking or crevasses.

Bear Glacier - Stewart, BC

I wanted to get much higher alongside the glacier, up to the area of crags and crevasses, but the higher I got, the stronger and colder the wind got, so I turned back well below that area.

One final photo of ice-carved rock near the toe of the glacier. My plan is now to get back to the Bear Glacier later this summer – I’m not nearly finished with it yet.

Bear Glacier - Stewart, BC

I reached Stewart at about 5:30, and was soon set up at the Bear River RV Park. The next day, I planned a full day for the dogs and I up the Granduc Road past the massive Salmon Glacier.



A long drive to Smithers, and hiking to a glacier at Twin Falls

After weeks of putting few or no miles on the motorhome each day, Day 54 of the trip – Monday, June 18th – would be a long one. The plan was to get from Tumbler Ridge to Smithers, 777 km to the west. There, I would spend 2 nights, with the main goal to hike the Glacier Gulch Trail at the Twin Falls Recreation Site.

The route was simple – Highway 29 took us west to Chetwynd, Highway 97 south to Prince George, and Highway 16 west to Smithers.

Map - Tumbler Ridge to Smithers
We pulled away from Tumbler Ridge just after 08:00. I made one stop along Highway 29 to get some photos of the rest area seen in the first photo, where interpretive panels describe the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark I’d spent the past 3 days hiking in.


I didn’t take any other photos along the way, though I made a few stops for the dogs. They weren’t comfortable stops, as the temperature had climbed to 34°C (93°F) along much of the route. A stop to make the fur-kids dinner almost became an overnight stop, but I decided that I really needed an electrical hookup so I could run the air conditioners, so pushed on another 3 hours.

We reached the aptly-named Glacier View RV Park at 7:30. I was very surprised that they only had 2 sites left. I took a grassy site with 20-amp power – that would be sufficient for one air conditioner.


From the RV park, I could see the next day’s goal – the twin falls and glacier on Hudson’s Bay Mountain. I couldn’t figure out where the trail might run, except that I knew in a broad sense that it’s to the left of the left-hand waterfall. I was both excited and rather intimidated by that sight.


On Tuesday morning, I took a drive a few miles to the west just to enjoy the scenery. I love the Bulkley Valley in any season. The forecast was for the temperature to hit 34°C again.

A calm scene below Hudson's Bay Mountain at Smithers
The next photo shows the approach to the recreation area on Lake Kathlyn Road.


Just before 11:00, I reached the Twin Falls Recreation Site. The map shows the trail to the Twin Falls viewing points clearly, but just shows a faint dotted line for the Glacier Gulch Recreation Trail, as few people hike it. The map notes that the Glacier Gulch Trail is “Difficult – very steep rough terrain – 2 hrs each way.”

Map of the Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
I decided to start by hiking up to the Twin Falls viewing points – the trail to the right in the next photo. That would be a good way to get limbered up.

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
There were a rather surprising number of people for a weekday morning. Most of us were tourists.

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
When I first visited Twin Falls in 1985, this was a fresh logging clear-cut. It’s pretty cool to have seen the transition from industrial to recreational use. I expect that even most locals don’t know or have forgotten the area’s history.

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
The waterfalls don’t seem to have individual names. This is the right-hand one.

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
Somewhere to the left of this waterfall is the trail I wanted. “Very steep rough terrain” indeed!

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
Several signs in the parking area and along the trail noted that an avalanche had done a great deal of damage recently. I was surprised by the size of the avalanche area, and by the size of trees that had been knocked down. There obviously hadn’t been an avalanche there in many decades.

Avalanche damage at Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
This memorial plaque now marks the end of the trail. The plaque honours 40-year-old Eric Paul Buss, who died in an avalanche here on November 27, 1991. The plaque includes a lengthy quote by George Leigh Mallory about why people hike and climb this mountain.

Memorial plaque at Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
The trail used to go beyond the memorial, but the creek has now re-routed itself right up to the cliff at this point. The amount of snow was a surprise, and didn’t bode well for the high trail.

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
This is tough country to be a tree.

Tree growing on rocks at Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
At 11:30, I was back down at the trail junction, and started up the Glacier Gulch Trail.

Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
The Glacier Gulch Trail gets steep and rough immediately.

Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
I met 4 young people coming down, but they hadn’t gone very far beyond where I met them.

Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
Even in the deep forest, the temperature was climbing rapidly, and I had soon stripped down to just my quick-dry shorts. In my pack, I had warm gear for what might come up in the alpine, though.

Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
I was seeing a few frogs and toads – more than I remember ever seeing on a trail anywhere before.

Frog on the Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
The trail gains altitude quickly – just 20 minutes from the start, I was already higher than the top of the right-hand waterfall. The other one was hidden in the forested canyon below.

Waterfall on the Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
A cable has been installed to help hikers get over one outcropping of granite.

Hiker using a cable on the Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
Just 45 minutes from the start, the trail ended at an avalanche chute. The snow was too wide, steep and long to even consider trying to get across or around without proper equipment and a partner. Someone had been across it, but the faint footprints looked like they’d been there for quite a while – weeks, I expect.


Well, that was disappointing to not even get above treeline – I really expected to get at least that far. There hadn’t even been many views, though the next photo shows the view from a small break in the forest just below where I turned around.


Going back to the scene shot from the RV park, I’ve added an arrow to show the avalanche chute where I got stopped. It wasn’t nearly as far as I had expected to get. Now I know that the Glacier Gulch Trail is a hike for August.

Glacier Gulch Trail, Smithers, BC

The rest of that day was spent in the air-conditioned motorhome – it was simply too hot to do anything except take Bella and Tucker for short walks. That night was miserable, too – tiny mosquitoes were getting in somehow, making Tucker and I nuts. As much as I love Smithers, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough – cooler weather wasn’t far ahead. The next stop was Stewart.



Exploring the Tumbler Ridge Geopark – Bergeron Falls

My third day exploring the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark with local photographer Collin Ball was Day 53 of the trip – Sunday, June 17th. Collin had planned the longest hike yet, some 13 km (8 mi) into Bergeron Falls and back. I had read some reviews online that confused me, but discovered that many people only hike to the top of the falls, a far shorter and easier hike. The circular route to the bottom of the falls has a total elevation gain of some 365 meters (1200 feet).

We reached the parking area, just 15 km from Tumbler Ridge, at 09:00. There were no other vehicles – perfect 🙂 While our other hikes had been at substantial altitudes, we started this one at 754 meters (2,475 feet).

Bergeron Falls trailhead - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
With side trails along the route, and a connector to the Bergeron Cliffs Trail, this can be as long a day as you choose.

Bergeron Falls trail map - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The trail begins by climbing steadily through a mixed aspen and spruce forest for about 1 km until it levels out on a bench.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Volmer Falls is just off the trail, but it’s so obscured by bush that you can’t see much of it.

Volmer Falls is just off the trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
For about half a kilometer, the trail follows an old seismic cutline.

An old seismic cutline on the trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Hey, a toad! I believe this is a Boreal/Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas). Adults reach up to 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) in size.

A Boreal/Western Toad on the trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
At km 2.2, the trail forks – to the left, it’s 2 km to the top of the falls. To the right, 2.5 km to the bottom.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
As with all of the trails we’e been on in the Tumbler Ridge Geopark, signage is very good. If the water is high, you can’t get to the bottom of Bergeron Falls, because you have to cross the creek 3 times.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
An hour and 20 minutes in, we dropped into a small valley and crossed an unnnamed creek. At the spot where I took the next photo, there’s apparently a well-preserved historic pack trail. Two large, recent tree falls have blocked it, and I couldn’t even see where it might be.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The trail goes very close to an unstable cliff overlooking the Murray River for quite a distance, then drops steeply down to the river.

The Murray River on the trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
It was Father’s Day, and Collin and I talked about our Dads – for both of us, our love of this sort of adventure came from them. Back in the forest, I had suddenly been surrounded by butterflies, and one of them landed on my camera and rode with me for a minute. Down along the Murray River, we met this young mule deer, who instead of running away, followed us and made eye contact. While you might not connect those two odd occurrences, Collin and I knew that our fathers were with us that day.

A young mule deer along the trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The first crossing of Bergeron Creek is made easy by a log at the mouth of the creek.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
We took a side trail to a lovely picnic and camping spot on the Murray River. The pool in front of us was so welcoming that I soon went for a dip. Water is becoming a more and more powerful draw for me, and getting wet at places like this is becoming more and more an important part of the experience, even when the water isn’t very warm.

The Murray River, on the trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The main trail then goes up Bergeron Creek, which has heavily-eroded banks in many places. There must be some impressive floods to do that much damage.

Bergeron Creek,  along the trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
There are some very large cottonwood trees along the lower part of Bergeron Creek. Actually, although I know them as cottonwoods, they may be Balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera).

Balsam poplar along the trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Cairns and flagging tape lead hikers up Bergeron Creek.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
As the trail starts to enter a canyon that Bergeron Creek has cut, other trails offer the chance to go above and around it if the water is high.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
For us, this was our dead-end. Although it appears that some people have been able to climb up the rocks to the right in the next photo, I wasn’t going to chance it. We back-tracked a few hundred feet and took the trail that led steeply up and around the canyon.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The next photo looks down Bergeron Creek to the head of the canyon. This would be a wonderful spot to spend time – if not for the fact that Bergeron Falls is only a few minutes ahead.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The final crossing of Bergeron Creek was required to enter the amphitheatre that Bergeron Falls drops into.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
My first view of Bergeron Falls left me speechless. As Eaton Falls at Grande Cache was a few days previously, this combination of rock and water was simply overwhelming. The scale was hard to even comprehend, though the spruce trees some 350 feet above made comprehension easier.

Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The closer I got, the more powerful the waterfall was.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Standing naked in the spray of the falls was the experience I wanted. Yes, I edited the photo a bit, though I didn’t when I first posted it to my Facebook page that evening 🙂

Naked in the spray of Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
I shot a short video to give you a better idea of what the place is like to stand in.


Collin had brought his drone, but it crashed up on the slope above us somewhere. While up there searching for it, I got a few shots of the waterfall. Collin did eventually find his little flying machine 🙂

Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
After spending a while in awe of the grand scale, I started to notice the little details around me, like this leaf caught in the stream for a moment.

The creek below Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Collin usually has a lensball with him, and gets some cool shots with it. You can see Bergeron Falls upside-down in the ball in the next photo. I just ordered one for my kit.

Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Just after 3:00 pm, we began the hike out. It’s a long, steep slog up the main hill!

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Pausing for a breath was often a good excuse to take some photos of the many wildflowers along the trail, like this Indian paintbrush (Castilleja).

Indian paintbrush along the trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
There are a few viewpoints of the waterfall along the top of the amphitheatre. Some were too extreme for me, but Collin got some awesome shots!

Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Apparently the view of the falls from out there is really good. Even Collin didn’t go out there, though – at least not this time 🙂

An extreme viewpoint of Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark
I didn’t take many photos during the hike out, but this large aluminum bridge is captured in a few.

The trail to Bergeron Falls - Tumbler Ridge Geopark

We got back to the truck right at 4:00 pm, so had spent 7 hours to experience Bergeron Falls. This is another site that I’ll definitely be back to. That evening, I took my poor neglected doggies back down to Flatbed Falls. Even Jewel hadn’t gotten to come on this day’s hike.

The 3 days hiking in the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark had been superb, beyond anything I could have hoped for. Collin’s love of photography and nature made him the perfect partner, and the 35 km or so that we hiked will be followed by many more that we’ve already begun discussing.

The next day would be a long one in the motorhome, as Smithers, 777 km to the west, was my next destination.



Exploring the Tumbler Ridge Geopark – the Boulder Gardens and the Shipyard

Day 52 of the trip – Saturday, June 16th – was my second day exploring the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark with local photographer Collin Ball. The first day had been incredibly varied, with waterfalls, caves, and limestone cliffs. This day would be spent mostly among the wild rock formations at the Boulder Gardens and the Shipyard, finishing off at Babcock Falls and Flatbed Falls.

The first photo shows the view to the west from my motorhome, parked behind the Tumbler Ridge visitor centre, at 09:10, as Collin and I were about to leave. It sure looked like we were in for a gorgeous day. Once again, Bella and Tucker would not be coming with us – the warm sun on bare rocks would be too much for Bella. Collin’s dog Jewel, though, got to come with us. I was really pleased to find that after hiking 11 km the previous day, I wasn’t stiff and sore once I got moving.

Tumbler Ridge, BC
Driving south on Highway 52, the way I came into Tumbler Ridge. That’s the Quintette coal mine in the distance. It’s a steelmaking coal project, currently on “care and maintenance” so that it can be easily re-opened when conditions are favourable.

Highway 52 and the Quintette coal mine
A marmot! What an odd place to find a marmot – they’re usually up in the alpine.

A marmot along Highway 52 near Tumbler Ridge
About 19 km from Tumbler Ridge, Collin turned onto the Core Lodge Road. A dozen km up that road, we came into sight of Peace River Coal’s Trend Mine, which isn’t currently operating either.

Peace River Coal's Trend Mine
Across the valley from the Trend Mine, we began our hiking day at the Boulder Gardens, a large and complex jumble of sandstone rock formations on Mount Babcock. The altitude at the parking area is 1,457 meters (4,780 feet)

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
There is a Circular Route and 3 official side routes that total about 5 km in length. Many sections require a great deal of care to navigate.

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Spring-fed Boulder Tarn would be a great place to cool off on a hot day, but just 20 minutes after starting the trail, I wasn’t into it yet.

Spring-fed Boulder Tarn in the Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
There were still some sizeable patches of snow, some of which the trail crossed. Despite the altitude and snow, the bugs were bad, even once we got up into the higher rocks.

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The coal mine is visible to varying degrees from much of the Boulder Gardens and the Shipyard.

The Trend coal mine seen from the Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The large, layered Pancake Rocks, which cover a fairly small area of about 50 meters square, are a good indication of the variety of rocks in the Boulder Gardens.

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The view to the southwest from up around 1,525 meters (5,000 feet) elevation.

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Over and over, I found myself wondering aloud how a certain rock was formed or why it sits where it does.

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Tumbler Ridge must not get earthquakes! 🙂

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
How is that possible??

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Getting a closer look or better camera angle for particularly strange rock formations often took me off the trails.

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The formation called The Window is best seen from back quite a way.

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The entrance to the Cave of Caerbannog still had about 7-8 feet of snow, so we didn’t get a look at it. In the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Cave of Caerbannog is the home of the Legendary Black Beast of Arrrghhh (named for the last utterance of anyone who ever saw it). 🙂

The Cave of Caerbannog in the Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
I’d like to have had a close look at the holes in the sandstone seen in the next photo but they were far above us and inaccessible.

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The Boulder Gardens are a popular rock climbing area, and there are more than 60 routes, many with bolted anchors as seen in the foreground of the next photo.

The Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
We spent 2 hours and 40 minutes in the Boulder Gardens (the brochures say to figure on 2-3 hours), then made the short drive to the Shipyard – Titanic area. The next view of the Trend coal mine was shot from the Shipyard parking area, which is at 1,617 meters (5,305 feet) elevation.

Peace River Coal's Trend Mine
The Shipyard is one of the places that Collin spends a lot of time in all seasons, so he did little photography here.

The Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
With some side routes, you’ll cover about 4 km to see the various parts of the Shipyard.

The Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The next photo was our first good look at The Armada, or Armada Ridge, with it’s complex of stacked and balancing rocks.

Armada Ridge in the Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
As with all the trails in the Tumbler Ridge Geopark, signage, both directional and interpretive, is very good. The sign that Collin is reading describes the Boulder Creek Formation of sandstone and siltstone, and the creation of cross beds, inclined layers formed by ripples of sand washing downstream some 100 million years ago.

The Boulder Creek Formation of sandstone and siltstone in the Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
All of a sudden among the rocks and more than a mile in elevation, the trail crossed a large flower-filled meadow. What a treat! Jewel enjoyed a dip in the creek at the far end of it, too 🙂

The Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Here’s a marmot living in a more suitable habitat. He made it very clear that he wasn’t pleased with our presence, and even less pleased with Jewel.

Marmot in the Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The variety of terrain within the Shipyards/Titanic area is perhaps even more broad than at the Boulder Gardens.

The Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
As well as the coal mine across the valley, coal, oil, and gas operations have left other scars right up the Shipyard.

The Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
In an entire day of hiking, this was the only garbage I saw except for a couple of small pieces of paper that I put in my pocket. What in hell is wrong with the person that did this, in a place like this? It’s simple Respect to take everything back out with you.

Garbage in the Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Beyond the rock formation called The Bismarck, the Trend coal mine can be seen.

A rock formation called The Bismarck at the Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
The high point of the hike, in the elevation sense, was the prow of The Titanic.

The Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Looking back at The Bismarck from The Titanic.

The Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Navigating beyond The Titanic would be a challenge!

The Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
From back down near the parking area, we took a side trail, the Tarn and Towers Trail. It took us to some great views of Armada Ridge.

The Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
And this is the tarn on the Tarn and Towers Trail.

The Shipyard - Titanic area, Tumbler Ridge Geopark

As at the Boulder Gardens, we spent 2 hours and 40 minutes in the Shipyard/Titanic area. With about 9 km under our belts at 3:40 pm, we were both game for more, and the 2.5-km route to/from nearby Babcock Falls looked like a good option.

The official trail ends at the top of the waterfall, but a very steep trail with rope assists installed took us to the base of the falls.

Babcock Falls, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
We had been told that the pool at the base of Babcock Falls was suitable for taking a dip, but at the high water levels when we were there, it definitely isn’t. It would be far too easy to get sucked into the Babcock Creek outflow, and there would be no surviving that ride.

Babcock Falls, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
It was a wonderful place to just sit and enjoy the warm sun and cold mist, through.

Babcock Falls, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
While the first 300 meters or so of Babcock Creek below the falls is twisting and violent, the creek below that looks like it would be fun to explore, though access is apparently not easy.

Babcock Creek, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Collin dropped me back off at the motorhome just before 6 pm, and now feeling really bad about having left Bella and Tucker for 2 rather long days in a row, I took them for a hike down to Flatbed Falls. The trailhead was only about a kilometer from where I was parked, right at the edge of Tumbler Ridge.

The trail to Flatbed Falls, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Flatbed Falls gave us a good opportunity to play in the water a bit, though a couple with a large, loose, and annoying dog limited our options somewhat and we didn’t stay long.

Flatbed Falls, Tumbler Ridge Geopark
Bella and Tucker thoroughly enjoyed themselves, so I felt much better.

The trail to Flatbed Falls, Tumbler Ridge Geopark

We had a calm night, and I got ready for another long hiking day – the longest yet – to Bergeron Falls the next day.