Driving the Nass Forest Road from Nisga’a Lava Park to Meziadin Lake Park

On Day 58 of the trip, June 22nd, I took a shortcut to the Stewart-Cassiar Highway on what’s commonly known as the Nass Forest Service Road or The Cranberry Connector. When I last drove it about a dozen years ago in the Tracker, it was rough but not unreasonable. This time, it was a really bad route to use with a large RV.

I was stressed out about something that morning, but didn’t know what. As a result, we got off to an early start, without even feeding the kids or having breakfast. At 07:00, I had a last look around the very nice little campground at Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park, then packed up to go.

Campground at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
While most of the area highway signs use the new community names, some old signs are still in place. New Aiyansh has returned to the traditional name Gitlaxt’aamiks. At 07:20, we made this left turn in the lava field that fills the valley floor.

BC Highway 113, the Nisga'a Highway
At 07:40, the pavement ended and the road narrowed. One of the many signs said that it’s 51 km to Cranberry Junction on Highway 37 (the Stewart-Cassiar Highway). Others warn that this is a “Wilderness road – road surface not maintained”, and that “extreme dusty conditions” could be encountered.

The western start of the Nass Forest Service Road, BC
The road was narrower than I remember it being. That could be a challenge if another large vehicle was met.

Nass Forest Service Road, BC
Within a few minutes, the road had gotten extremely rough.

Nass Forest Service Road, BC
Km 46 – it had taken 15 minutes to travel the first 5 km. By now, I might have turned around if there was any place to do that.

Nass Forest Service Road, BC
At 08:00, we came to very nice campground, at Gravel Lake. That was a surprise! Especially to see a pickup with a fairly large trailer camped there. By now, 20 minutes in, I was committed to the road, though I could have turned around there.

Gravel Lake campground on the Nass Forest Service Road, BC
One of the many one-lane bridges, at 08:12.

One-lane bridge on the Nass Forest Service Road, BC
At 08:30, I pulled over at a wide spot and took a short break to make the kids breakfast.

Nass Forest Service Road, BC
At 09:00, an hour and 20 minutes from the start, we were 14 km along the road. In many places, I could have walked quicker for hundreds of yards. A couple of times, the potholes were placed in ways that got the motorhome rocking from side to side so badly that I had to stop and wait for the rocking to stop before continuing.

Nass Forest Service Road, BC
At 09:20, we reached the junction with the road to Kitsault (to the left), called the Nass-Kinskutch Forest Service Road. That had been an hour and 50 minutes to go 19 km (take about 15 minutes off that for our breakfast break).

Nass Forest Service Road, BC
With a major mine having been there, and the Avanti Kitsault Mine now operating, I thought that it would be a much better road than this.

Nass-Kinskutch Forest Service Road to kitsault, BC
The road improved greatly past the Kitsault junction. While far from being a good road, it was a perfectly reasonable Forest Service Road. It’s hard to see in this photo, but the tire tracks going far to the left was a vehicle going around a tree leaning across much of the road.

Tree across the Nass Forest Service Road, BC
The Nass River, from a bridge over a tributary creek that we crossed at 09:40. Now we were making good time! πŸ™‚

Nass Forest Service Road, BC
You could see from the marks and chips that some traveller in the recent past had used a hatchet Not an axe) to cut off enough of this tree to get around it.

Tree across the Nass Forest Service Road, BC
At 10:25, “Betty” (the GPS) told me that I needed to turn left off “Highway 113” onto an “unpaved road.” How odd.

Nass Forest Service Road, BC
This was the “unpaved road.” Nice try, Betty – I’d had all the shortcuts I needed for one day! πŸ™‚

Nass Forest Service Road, BC
At 10:40 we reached the end of the Nass Forest Service Road at Cranberry Junction (it’s not a community, just a road junction), and turned onto the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. Ten minutes later, the sign ahead said that our destination, Meziadin Junction, was 66 km away.

Stewart-Cassiar Highway
We had a 20-minute delay to get around some resurfacing work. The chatty flagperson sure seemed to enjoy her job.

Resurfacing work on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway

Resurfacing work on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
By noon, we were set up in a lakefront campsite at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were terrible again, and drove us inside. Haha, you can smell us but can’t bite us now!

Mosquitoes at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, BC
Being in the motorhome was still good – Meziadin Lake is a gorgeous park.

Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, BC
The view out the side window. Many of the 20 or so lakefront campsites have trees, but I really like this area that’s wide open. All of these sites have electric outlets to plug into. Because of my laptop, that’s the one service I really do like having, but as soon as I get a chance I’m going to check into getting solar power for the rig.

Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, BC
There’s an excellent boat launch and dock. The boat in the photo belongs to the park operator, who uses it for fishing charters.

Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, BC
The entire park is immaculate. Meziadin Lake really is a gem in BC’s park system, and the operator does a great job running it. The building in the photo is the office and store that’s open for a couple of hours each evening. The park even has wifi! The park operator has been running it, but it’s now with a private service, and it refused to accept my credit card so I couldn’t log on.

Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, BC
Although the mosquitoes were too bad to sit still outside, Bella and Tucker and I went for a few walks and created enough of a breeze to keep them at bay. On a long walk out to the highway before bed, we had our route shortened by a black bear on the side of the road down by the creek (barely visible in the photo).

The Stewart-Cassiar Highway at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, BC
Some stick-play with the kis on the beach in front of our campsite was a great way to end the day. I had thought about staying another day here, but decided to move on to Stewart the next day.

Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, BC

Visiting Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park

Leaving Gitlaxt’aamiks (New Aiyansh) at 4:00 pm on Day 57 of the trip, June 21, we began a driving tour of Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park, which is actually called Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a. See a park map (pdf, 198 Kb).

It was and has been extremely difficult to find many details about the lava that we’d come to see. Now that I’m home and can research, I’ve found an old Natural Resources Canada report that says that the eruption of the Aiyansh-Tseax River volcano in 1780 is the only eruption in Canada for which legends of First Nations people have been verified. Other sources give widely varying dates for the eruption. The Nisga’a tell of a prolonged period of disruption by the volcano that destroyed the village of Lax Ksiluux on the Nass River, and killed some 2,000 people, from hot lava or “poisonous smoke” (carbon dioxide). The people were killed at Lax Ksiluux, at the villages of Ts’oohl Ts’ap and Lax Hli Wil Giist, and at other places in the valley. The Tseax Cone, 290 meters in diameter at the base, is located in the narrow confines of a tributary of the Tseax River, and is currently only accessible on guided tours. Natural Resources Canada says that the vent was active at least twice, in 1780 and 1350, and remnants of other, older lava flows exist in the area. The park was created in April 1992 to honour the dead and to preserve the unique region.

Dropping down to the park from Gitlaxt’aamiks on BC Highway 113, the Nisga’a Highway. I had left Bella and Tucker in the motorhome while I went into Gitlaxt’aamiks, so the first part of the tour was solo.

Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
At the one-lane Tseax River bridge, the park boundary sign.

Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park sign
I had picked up a park Auto Tour brochure, and that was my guide for this tour. The brochure says that the tour can be done in any order, so #8, the Tseax River (Ksi Sii Aks) was our first stop.

Tseax River (Ksi Sii Aks), Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
The Tseax River provides an important gravel stream bottom habitat to salmon and steelhead spawning, and can be a great place to watch the fish. When the fish are spawning, the river also attracts both black and grizzly bears, but we were a bit early. A local fellow was fishing here, unsuccessfully so far.

Tseax River (Ksi Sii Aks), Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Stop #9 was Gitlaxt’aamiks, which we had just come from, so #10 was next – the Boat Launch on the Nass River (Hanii-yaga-ba’ansgum Boot). When lava flowed into the Nass River, it pushed the river from the south side of the valley to the north side. Breaks in the front allowed lava to flow into the water, rapidly cooling and forming what looks like an elephant’s trunk, though I didn’t see any.

Boat launch at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
The lava field on the drive back to the highway from the boat launch. The forms and shapes are extremely varied, but three forms dominant the Nisga’a lanscape. A’a lava is rough and jagged, formed when gases escape violently from the lava as it cools. Pahoehoe is smooth lava formed when gases escape quietly from the lava as it cools. Lava tubes are formed when the top layer of lava cools and hardens while molten lava is still flowing underneath. If the molten lava flows out before hardening, a hollow tube remains, and the upper layer often breaks and collapses into it.

Lava field at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Stop #11 is the Tree Cast (Wil Luu-galksi-mihl Gan). A 5-minute walk starting with this boardwalk over some A’a lava and collapsed tubes is supposed to lead to a tree cast, formed when molten lava flows around a tree and then hardens before the tree burns. The path led me nowhere, though. I’ve found tree casts in the lava field on my own during previous visits – I find them very interesting features.

Tree cast walk at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
The Tree Cast walk provided lots of interesting sights, even if I couldn’t find the tree cast. Mother Nature’s transforming of the lava field back to a forest is occurring extremely slowly.

Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
A section of pahoehoe that almost looks like an old road.

Pahoehoe at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
You can almost see the lava flowing in the patterns that remain 250 years later.

Signs of flowing lava at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
This is the texture of much of the lava here.

Lava at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
I got into the next photo so you can judge the size of these blocks of A’a lava.

A'a lava at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
I didn’t go into stop #12, which is the village of Gitwinksihlkw, which means “place of the lizards). Stop #13 is the park Dedication Site, a particularly impressive location within the lava field where the ceremony was held on April 30, 1992. Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park was the first park to be jointly managed by BC Parks and a First Nation.

Park dedication site, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Blocks of lava at the Dedication Site.

Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
I love wilderness hot springs, so stop #14 was of particular interest to me – the hot springs known most commonly as Aiyansh Hot Springs now, but traditionally Hlgu Isgwit. This is the parking lot with a new outhouse, at the highway.

Aiyansh Hot Springs, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
I’d heard some complaints that the wilderness nature of the hot springs has been ruined. The new boardwalk is nice – it used to be quite a slog to get in (see this 2007 photojournal).

Aiyansh Hot Springs, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
There are still some sloppy sections to walk across, but the new boardwalk seems to go across most of them. The forest that the trail goes through is really beautiful.

Aiyansh Hot Springs, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Just over 5 minutes from the parking lot, Aiyansh Hot Springs. My first impression was pretty positive, although the mosquitoes were very bad.

Aiyansh Hot Springs, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Well, the water temperature is wonderful (about 104°F, judged by my hot tub at home), but that’s all the depth there is. I had brought a bathing suit and towel, but that’s as wet as I got. So while natural hot water is always interesting, Aiyansh Hot Springs is at the bottom of the list of hot springs I’ve visited.

Aiyansh Hot Springs, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
I didn’t continue west for the distant stops #15-18, as none are volcano-related, and that was the focus at the moment. They will take a full day, so that will be something for the next visit. In the next photo, I’m back on Highway 113, the Nisga’a Highway, headed for the campground to get Bella and Tucker for the rest of the park tour.

Nisga'a Highway through Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
The access road to the Visitor Center and campground, which is stop #7 on the Auto Tour.

Visitor Center and campground at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Driving south now, retracing my route to the park from Terrace, the next stop was #6, Vetter Falls (Ts’itksim Aks). The water that flows over these falls is overflow from the Tseax River. The water disappears under the lava about 5 km downstream from here.

Vetter Falls (Ts'itksim Aks), Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
The short trail to the falls begins as a gravelled accessible path through the lava field.

Vetter Falls (Ts'itksim Aks), Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
The creek above the falls. I’d been to the falls before, but not when there was this much water flowing.

Vetter Falls (Ts'itksim Aks), Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
About 5 waterfalls were flowing, spread across about 300 feet of the forest, due to the increased amount of water. This photo was shot with a 1-second exposure at ISO 100 to blur the water. It was shot hand-held because I hadn’t brought my tripod – it’s nearly impossible to use with 2 dogs on leashes.

Vetter Falls (Ts'itksim Aks), Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Rose petals beside the falls. There are no roses anywhere close, so they were put there on purpose. Interesting…

Rose petals at Vetter Falls (Ts'itksim Aks), Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
A slightly longer trail (just over 5 minutes) takes visitors to stop #5, Beaupre Falls.

Beaupre Falls trail, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
I was really enjoying the smells of the damp forest on the last 3 walks.

Beaupre Falls trail, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
The viewing deck also for comfortable contemplation of the scene. I noted that unlike the situation at the hot springs, there were very few mosquitoes here.

Beaupre Falls, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Beaupre Falls from the viewing deck.

Beaupre Falls, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Starting back towards the car, Bella wanted to go down a side trail to the creek. Walking up the creek a bit ed us to this view of the falls. Nice work, Bella πŸ™‚ Before going back up to the trail, Tucker initiated a play while in 6 inche sor so of water in the creek, and it got quite animated! Tucker doesn’t like water much, so that really surprised me.

Beaupre Falls, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Stop #4 is the Drowned Forest, the stop we had made earlier on the drive into the park.

Drowned Forest, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Stop #3 is Crater Creek, where a trail goes a short distance towards Tseax cinder cone. As I mentioned, the cinder cone can only be visited on a guided tour, and they weren’t being offered yet. I certainly would have stayed to go on the 4-hour hike if it had been available. The interpretive panels here were the first mention I’d seen about 2,000 people dying here.

Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Another view of the vast lava field (about 39 square kilometers of it), from the campground access road in the evening light.

Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
At 7:30 pm, we were back at the motorhome, and it was time to get a late dinner for everybody. I’d decide in the morning what to do with the day, but moving on towards Stewart was the most likely plan.

Campground at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park

Driving from Smithers to Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park

Having given up on some sunny days arriving in Smithers, on Day 57 of the trip, June 21, the first day of summer, we moved west and north to Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park.

A 253-km (157-mi) drive would still give us plenty of time to explore the park once we got there. Click on the map of the route to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map from Smithers to Nisga'a Park
Oh come on guys, it’s almost 7:00 and I’ve been up for 2 hours already! Geez, what a crew! πŸ™‚ It was a cold morning, though, and I had heard furnaces firing in many of the RVs, including mine.

Dogs and cat in bed in the RV
I haven’t said much about Glacier View RV Park, but I really like the place. The view, of course, is spectacular, but the entire property is very nice, and the short drive into Smithers makes it a great location for exploring. The sites aren’t large but are adequate, at $103.50 for 3 nights with wifi and taxes.

Glacier View RV Park in Smithers, BC
As well as the RV park, there are cabins above the RV spaces. Kent and Rose have done a great job with the property, and I wouldn’t consider staying anywhere else in Smithers.

Glacier View RV Park in Smithers, BC
At 08:35, we pulled out onto the frontage road, headed for Highway 16 westbound. I was grateful for the sun but it didn’t look like it was going to stay with us for long.

Highway 16 westbound, west of Smithers, BC
Within 10 minutes, the sunshine was gone. Oh well, I’ve seen this first part of the route many times on sunny days.

Highway 16 westbound, west of Smithers, BC
I stopped briefly at Moricetown Canyon, just to see if anything interesting was going on. It was just a bit too early for salmon, though they would arrive any day, so there was no action on the river.

Moricetown Canyon
The stop got me a logging truck, though πŸ™‚

Logging truck at Moricetown Canyon
At 09:45, the junction with Highway 37, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, at Gitwangak (Kitwanga), was just ahead. That’s almost always my route north, but not this time.

Junction of Highway 16 and the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
Five minutes later, I pulled into large pulloff to walk the dogs. That view certainly doesn’t look like the first day of summer, does it?

After 2 months driving around BC, I had grown really tired of seeing “No Dogs Allowed” signs. When I saw the woman from this motorhome from Tennessee let her dog poop in a really nice grassy picnic area and then not clean up, I got out and tore a strip off her. People like that make RVers and dog owners all look bad, and it’s just bloody disrespectful. Grrrrr…..

Picnic area along Highway 16 east of Terrace, BC

I spent almost 2 hours in Terrace before heading north. I had to fuel up and do a bit of grocery shopping, but I also had to have yet another Whitehorse job fixed properly – the exhaust on the Tracker. Malcolm at Minute Muffler got me in right away, and asked who installed that mess. He said they’d fix what they could. I left knowing that at least it wasn’t going to fall off in the middle of nowhere – good insurance for $68.

Heading up the Nisga’a Highway (BC Highway 113), I found that I need to re-learn the map of this area. All of the communities have gone back to their ancestral names, and very few resources use both names. From here, Gitwinksihlkw (which I knew as Canyon City) is 103 km, Laxgalts’ap (which I knew as Greenville) is 139 km, and Gingolx (which I knew as Kincolith) is 169 km.

At 1:30, we were following the east shore of Lava Lake, which was formed when the lava flow we were going to see blocked the Tseax River. Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park starts at the head of the lake. The park’s name is actually now Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a but I’m sticking with a name that I can pronounce and spell.

Lava Lake, BC - Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
A one-lane bridge over the Big Cedar River.

A one-lane bridge over the Big Cedar River, BC
The rain slowed down enough as we reached the very short Drowned Forest Trail that we went for a walk. At high water levels, the Tseax River runs through the forest for a considerable distance in this area. The trail is at this small waterfall.

Drowned Forest Trail, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
Bella was so intent on something there that I thought she was going to jump in, so we left and headed for the campground.

Drowned Forest Trail, Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
By 2:30, we were set up in a very nice site at the park campground. It’s very small, only 16 or 18 sites depending on which resource you read (and I didn’t count), with a nightly fee of $20.

Campground at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
There’s a nice picnic area as you enter the campground.

Picnic area at Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park
The visitor centre is also at the entrance to the campground, but it was closed. With no good information on the interpretive panels, I decided to make the short drive to New Aiyansh – now Gitlaxt’aamiks – to see if I could get some park information. In particular, there is an Auto Tour that I thought must have an explanatory brochure.

Welcome to Gitlaxt’aamiks, Capital of The Nisga’a Nation (formerly known as New Aiyansh). I’ve always had a special interest in this community, as my youngest sister is a member of the Nisga’a Nation, and this was my third visit.

Welcome to Gitlaxt'aamiks, Capital of The Nisga'a Nation
The first building that you come to is the RCMP detachment, the Lisims / Nass Valley Detachment, which was worth a stop. The Nisga’s Nation house crests were painted on the building when the detachment was re-named in April 1997 (it had been the New Aiyansh Detachment).

Lisims / Nass Valley RCMP Detachment
The Holy Trinity Anglican Church is an impressive building that can be seen for miles across the valley.

The Nisga’a Lisims Government building is a good sign of how progressive this community and region is. There’s a brochure that gives a tour of the building. The receptionist was thankfully able to get me the information I needed for a proper look at the park.

The Nisga'a Lisims Government building
In front of the Nisga’a Lisims Government building stands the Nisga’sa Lisims totem pole (pts’aan), “Goothl Lisims – the Heartbeat of Lisims.” Raised on November 16, 2000, it displays the 7 gifts from the Great Spirit which have been adopted by Nisga’a clans. At the base of the pole is Gibuu, the Wolf.

Goothl Lisims - the Heartbeat of Lisims totem pole
The gym section of the school is one of several buildings worthy of special attention.

Armed with the information I needed, we began our park tour, which will be the subject of the next post.

Exploring Smithers: Hudson Bay Mountain and Malkow Lookout

I had a long list of things that I wanted to do in Smithers, but the weather wasn’t being very cooperative. On Day 56 of the trip, June 20th, I drove to the Hudson Bay Mountain ski area, and then hiked to Malkow Lookout.

The weather forecast for the day wasn’t very good, but at 09:00 it looked like hiking the Glacier Gulch trail, directly ahead of me at the Glacier View RV Park, was still a possibility. A storm soon moved in from the back side of the mountain, though, so Plan B went into effect.

Glacier View RV Park in Smithers, BC
At 10:45, we started driving up Hudson Bay Mountain to a ski area that I’d never been to. From downtown Smithers, it’s about 24 km (15 mi) to the lodge.

The road to the Hudson Bay Mountain ski area at Smithers, BC
Twenty minutes later, we had reached the newest and lowest of the residential areas at the ski area. “Mountain cabins starting at $249,000.”

New housing development at the Hudson Bay Mountain ski area at Smithers, BC
A couple of minutes later, we found Area 51 North, with even an “Alien X-ing” sign! πŸ™‚

Area 51 North - Hudson Bay Mountain ski area at Smithers, BC
Panorama Lodge. A ski area in the off season is a rather sad place. Hudson Bay Mountain gets great reviews, though, and I know some people drive down from Whitehorse to ski the awesome powder here.

Panorama Lodge - Hudson Bay Mountain ski area at Smithers, BC
The view is pretty fine in any season, though.

Hudson Bay Mountain ski area at Smithers, BC
There seems to have been a lot of recent building up top…

Hudson Bay Mountain ski area at Smithers, BC
…some with a modern solution to an old-fashioned problem. I had a styrofoam outhouse seat at my Carcross cabin – ahhhh, that’s nice at -40! πŸ™‚

Styrofoam outhouse seat poster at Hudson Bay Mountain ski area at Smithers, BC

I thought about hiking out to Crater Lake, but then a storm hit that had ice crystals being driven into our faces by a screaming wind. None of us thought that was fun, so I started driving down to a more hospitable elevation instead.

Just add snow…

Hudson Bay Mountain ski area at Smithers, BC
On the way down, I had a look at the new residential area. Ski-in, ski-out cabins, 1073 square feet, $399,500. Three very nice ones, larger than that, have been built so far.

Hudson Bay Mountain ski area at Smithers, BC
The sun came out for a few minutes to light up some wildflowers along the road.

Wildlowers along the road to the Hudson Bay Mountain ski area at Smithers, BC
I made a few stops on the way down to check out side roads. Pretty, but nothing drew me further in.

Hudson Bay Mountain ski area at Smithers, BC
The Smithers Community Forest near the bottom of the mountain has a large network of trails, but a cold rain had hit again so we continued on.

Smithers Community Forest
And the trees there can kill you, too! πŸ™‚

Trees can kill you at Smithers!
The view across the Bulkley Valley from near the bottom of the mountain shows the weather problem clearly.

View across the Bulkley Valley
The Dahlie Road CN Rail overpass stopped me to walk back for some photos.

With much nicer weather down in the valley, I decided that Bella and Tucker needed a long walk, so we headed for the Malkow Lookout trail.

The road to Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC
The brochure I picked up says that it’s a 1-hour hike, but that turned out to be one way – not a very useful figure for a hike. It’s about a 5 km hike, though, with an elevation gain of just over 200 meters. Much of the trail is on private farmland, and there are a few gates to close. One of the signs up further says that cows in the pasture have zero tolerance for loose dogs.

The trail to Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC
There’s a lot of variety on the trail – varying rolling pastures and forests until the final climb.

The trail to Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC
Bella and Tucker try to figure out what’s ahead.

The trail to Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC
Looking across one of the pastures to Hudson Bay Mountain. There were no cows, but plenty of wildflowers.

Along the trail to Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC
A well-decorated Christmas tree along the trail!

Christmas tree along the trail to Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC
I don’t think I’d ever seen such huge wild roses as in this one small area along the trail. The fragrance for a long way down the trail was wonderful!

Wild roses along the trail to Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC
On the final climb. The road once served a forestry lookout tower, and now there’s a communications tower and a couple of picnic tables.

The trail to Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC
The next three photos show various directions from the top. Malkow Lookout was a great choice for a hike, and the weather did cooperate.

Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC

Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC

Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC
On the way back down. Within seconds of reaching the car, rain began, and it got heavier and heavier as we drove back to the RV park.

The trail from Malkow Lookout - Smithers, BC
The view at 8:15 that night. I had thought about staying another day, but the weather forecast had pushed the arrival of good weather away for 3 days instead of just one, so I decided to move on the next morning, to Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park.

Glacier View RV Park in Smithers, BC

Exploring the Smithers area – Telkwa, Round Lake and more

In real time, I got home yesterday, on Day 62 of the trip. In blog time, though, I’m still a week behind.

Day 55 of the trip, June 19th, started off wet and dreary, but the afternoon was a few hours of wandering backroads in the Smithers area to see what I could find. I had a historic community hall and a fossil park on the list, but was open to anything, and it turned out to be much more interesting than I’d expected.

After a morning of writing and dog-walking, I left the RV park at about 12:30 and drove east on Highway 16 as far as the community of Quick, deciding to work my way back to Smithers from there. At Quick, there was a cute Little Free Library with its base made from skis. Nearby was a house with a few things made from skis.

Little Free Library at Quick, BC
For decades I’ve been driving by signs pointing to “Historic Round Lake Hall”, always wondering what it might look like. Today was the day to find out.

Sign on Highway 16 pointing to Historic Round Lake Hall
The road around Round Lake is certainly a nice one for wandering on.

The road around Round Lake, BC
It’s an especially nice road to wander on if you like cows, which I do. I’d soon find out that the building directly above the nearest cows, on the far side of the lake, is Historic Round Lake Hall.

Farm at Round Lake, BC

Cows at Round Lake, BC
The Historic Round Lake Hall began life as the Fidel Hotel in the town of Hubert. In 1921, the abandoned building was moved across the frozen Bulkley River to its present location. in 2008-2009, the building was extensively renovated, and the grand reopening in April 2009 drew over 300 community members.

Historic Round Lake Hall
The Round Lake Hall Web site says: “In those days, it was the Women’s Community Club who oversaw the happenings and the original cornerstone bears testimony to their hard work.”

The cornerstone of the Historic Round Lake Hall
The view from in front of the hall. At the side of the hall is a picnic area, and out back is a camping area.

The view from Historic Round Lake Hall
Peeking through a window of the hall, I see the rafters hung with quilts.

Historic Round Lake Hall
Retracing my route back to Highway 16, I caught a glimpse of another old building off to the south, and did a U-turn. I took it at first to be a one-room school.

But it’s the community of Quick’s St. John the Divine Anglican church, which was also moved from the ghost town of Hubert, in 1928.

St. John the Divine Anglican church in Quick, BC
The door of the little church was unlocked. Inside, the walls and ceiling are lined with narrow tongue-and-groove fir. Up front, carved oak altar rails and lectern, and off to one side, a pump organ, with a pot-bellied wood stove to warm it up on the other side.

St. John the Divine Anglican church in Quick, BC
Small stained glass panels are at each end of the building. As you walk in, a rope hangs loose, to ring the bell with.

St. John the Divine Anglican church in Quick, BC
After having a good look at the church, I retraced my route east for a couple of miles to get some photos of Vic’s Garage, a classic design probably from the 1930s.

Vic's Garage in Quick, BC
Driving back towards Smithers, I stopped in Telkwa – “Where Rivers Meet & Friends Gather”, say the sogns at each end of the town, which has a population of 1,160. I’ve stopped briefly at Eddy Park on the Bulkley River a few times, but had never had a good look around. The bride on the left in this photo is a one-lane road bridge across the Bulkley River; the bridge on the right carries the Canadian National Railway across the Telkwa River.

Bridges in Telkwa, BC
A closer look at the railway bridge.

Railway bridge in Telkwa, BC
Timing is everything. The locomotive, a GPA-30a series F40PH-2D, sports a special wrap as part of this year’s “Canada 150” celebrations to mark the country’s 150th anniversary.

Train on the railway bridge in Telkwa, BC
Telkwa has some interesting churches. The most bizarre paint job I’ve ever seen on a church is on this one on the hill across from the school. The fire-breathing dragon wrapping around the side and front of the building is pretty awesome! I neglected to get closer and see which church it is.

church in Telkwa, BC

church in Telkwa, BC
St. Stephen’s Anglican church, built in 1910, is managed by the Telkwa Museum.

St. Stephen's Anglican church in Telkwa, BC
This is the United Church from 1920.

This 1910 building is now the Cointe River Inn as well as a general store and cafe.

Now almost 2:30, I needed to find a fun place for Bella and Tucker. Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park looked interesting in the brochure I picked up at the Visitor Information Centre, so we headed back towards Smithers. The highway signs signify that BC Highway 16 is part of the interprovincial Yellowhead Highway.

Highway 16, the Yellowhead
On the way to the park, I got stopped by the charming Driftwood Schoolhouse, built in 1944. The school closed in 1965 and was eventually sold to the Glenwood Hall Committee in 1989 for $5000. It’s available for rent for $75 per day, a rate which includes toilet paper for the outhouse and wood for the stove πŸ™‚

Driftwood Schoolhouse, BC
Off to the park, which is 13.4 km off Highway 16.

The road to Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, BC
Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park – the picnic area is very nice. The park Web site says that “Driftwood Canyon is recognized as one of the world’s most significant fossil beds.”

Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, BC
Open-grate bridges often freak the kids out, but although initially hesitant, they got across this one, which leads to the fossil beds.

Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, BC
There are many interpretive panels along the trail. They’ve very attractive, but with a high-gloss finish and just the right angle to reflect the sky, they’re very difficult to read and impossible to photograph for future reference. The angle would also make it impossible for kids to see them, and many are clearly aimed at kids.

Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, BC
The fossil beds are high above this viewing area, and signs say that climbing the bank is no longer allowed. Overall, I consider the park to be a dud, despite being a good place to walk the dogs. No fossils to see, and signs that are just too hard to read to bother.

The drive back to Smithers from the park is very nice, though.

Driftwood, BC

The rain had mostly held off for our wander, but began to fall as we neared Smithers, and soon was too heavy for any more activities outside the motorhome.

Driving from Farwell Canyon to Williams Lake and Smithers

I had been planning on driving to Bella Coola on Day 54, June 18th, but a forecast for rain and a nag that something wasn’t right stopped me, and I headed to Williams Lake and then north instead. I decided that Smithers would be a good destination, making it the longest driving day in several weeks.

Click on the route map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map from Farwell Canyon to Smithers, BC
The morning began with some dramatic lighting sneaking through the clouds. I’d had lots of sunshine for my visit, so the timing for clouds was okay.

Dramatic lighting at Farwell Canyon, BC
The sign on this truck going by simply said “DUST CONTROL”. You had one job, son… πŸ™‚

Dust Control at Farwell Canyon, BC
It was going to be a long day, and we were away very early – here we’re climbing out at 07:10.

Climbing the gravel road out of Farwell Canyon, BC
The past couple of years, we’ve seen lots of cows, but these were the first we’d seen this year despite a lot more driving and hiking in the area. They didn’t like us stopping, so it was a very short photo stop.

Cows on the Farwell Canyon Road, BC
There aren’t many ponds/lakes in this country.

Small lake along the Farwell Canyon Road, BC
Starting the gradual drop back down to Highway 20, the Bella Coola Road.

Farwell Canyon Road, BC
There is some wonderful scenery on the drive east to Williams Lake. That’s the Doc English Bluff Ecological Reserve ahead – I hiked up to the top 2 years ago (great view!).

Highway 20 crosses the Fraser River.

I had a few projects to take care of in Williams Lake. First, empty and fill various tanks in the motorhome. Williams Lake has the best community RV sani-station I’ve seen, and it’s free (it’s at the Stampede grounds)

Williams Lake RV sani-dump
Preparations were underway for the big event of the year, the famous Williams Lake Stampede.

Then, I needed both power and wifi to charge my laptop and get some blog posts loaded. The gorgeous Visitor Centre had what I needed. Williams Lake is one of the most big-rig-RV-friendly communities I’ve been to. It’s really frustrating to not be able to even park near a Visitor Centre much less at it, but Williams Lake has lots of room there, a really nice community RV park, the excellent free sani-dump, large parking lots at some of the parks…

Williams Lake Visitor Centre
I spent an hour in this very comfortable space on the lower level of the Visitor Centre, and got all charged up and caught up.

Williams Lake Visitor Centre
I pulled away from the Williams Lake Visitor Centre just after 10:00, and the next photo I shot was at 7:00 pm, after I’d gotten set up at the Glacier View RV Park in Smithers. I had lots to see and do in Smithers – foremost was climbing to that glacier on Hudson Bay Mountain ahead.

Glacier View RV Park in Smithers, BC

Backroads exploring into Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park

While boondocking at Farwell Canyon for 3 days, the dogs and I took the morning of Day 53, June 17th, to explore Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, located above Farwell Canyon at the junction of the Fraser and Chilcotin Rivers. Access to the park is officially described as “difficult, via rough 4 x 4 dirt roads through private ranchlands”, and other warnings are added, including “Carry chains and a shovel, even in summer.” A friend had taken me in with her car in 2015, but there were a few places where I feared for her oilpan – the Tracker is much more suitable for these roads.

The park, which is 4,774 hectares (18.4 square miles) in size, was designated in 1995, primarily to protect an internationally significant herd of California bighorn sheep. A basic network of roads provide access to a couple of distant scenic points in the park. On the map, a “cairn” is noted, and I made a mental note that it’s reached by taking the right fork at each road junction.

Map of Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
I had a full day planned, and we got off to a very early start, starting on the 4×4 road at 07:30. Although it’s possible to see California bighorn sheep and mule deer in the park, the relatively undisturbed natural grasslands were enough to draw me in. Any wildlife would simply be a bonus.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
Occasional signs remind visitors: “Private property. Vehicles permitted on access roads only.”

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
There are a couple of cattle guards to bump across on the ranch property.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
I try to imagine what the first ranchers to discover this country 130-odd years ago would have thought about it. The fact that some stayed is probably a good indication. As harsh as the climate can be, it has a delicate beauty. And it’s not just the beauty that’s delicate – the park Web site warns that “Trampling of the cryptogamic crust, largely composed of lichens, causes soil erosion, and lichens may take many years to re-establish. Please stay on public trails and do not drive on or trample the lichen crust.” I had to Google “cryptogamic crust” – it’s “a thin crust made up of mosses, lichens, algae, and bacteria” that are collectively referred to as cryptogams.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
Before going to the distant cairn, I drove to a viewpoint over the Fraser River that Sharon had taken me to in 2015. It’s at the eastern edge of the park, about halfway between the north and south boundaries. The next photo shows the actual entry into the park from the private ranchlands, 9.2 km from the start of the 4×4 road.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
Looking down the Fraser River.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
The viewpoint is the end of this access road, 9.9 km from the start of the 4×4 road. You can get an idea by the “road” of how few visitors this park gets.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
It’s a steep climb up from the viewpoint…

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
…and then the road wanders up and down across grasslands and through mixed forests, of pine and apsen primarily.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
I had just driven towards the camera from the viewpoint, and was now taking the right-hand road to get to the cairn. I now had 12.1 km on the odometer.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
With 14.9 km on the odometer, we crossed back into the park, and a few hundred meters beyond, came to these interpretive panels about the park and its inhabitants.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
The Chilcotin River can be seen in the distance on the right, the Fraser River is hidden ahead.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
At the end of the road, with 20.3 km on the odometer, this is the cairn marked on the map. On it, “This plaque is dedicated to the memory of Harold Mitchell, Wildlife Biologist, and Wes Prediger, Wildlife Technician, killed in a helicopter crash March 2, 1981. These men worked tirelessly to have the “junction range’ set aside as a permanent habitat for California Bighorn sheep, historic residents of this natural grassland. Ministry of Environment, October 1982.”

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
Looking down on the Fraser River.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
A few dots of colours were provided by various flowers, including a few widely-dispersed Scotch thistles.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
We walked along the rail fence for a bit to see how far it goes. A long way… πŸ™‚

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
I stopped often, to just shut the car off, get out and savour this land. Bella and Tucker thought that was a great way to travel.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
When a tree falls across the road, it’s not really a problem in much of this country.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
A few more dots of colour.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
That’s Farwell Canyon in the centre.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
Both of the log cabins at what appears to have been a wildlife study station have signs on them: “Heritage building. Hanta-virus danger. Keep out.” That’s one of the more effective “no trespassing” signs I’ve seen!

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
Almost back to the interpretive panels and the start of the road system, at 10:15. I put 34.5 km (24.3 mi) on the Tracker in 2¾ hours. It was an extremely fine way to start the day off.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC
Heading back to the motorhome to drop Bella and Tucker off before hiking into the desert, which I described in the last post.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, BC

The next day, we’d make one of the longest drives of the trip (the longest in several weeks), to Smithers.

Boondocking and exploring at Farwell Canyon and its desert

On Day 51 of the trip, June 15th, I headed northwest from Lone Butte to Farwell Canyon, off the Bella Coola road west of Williams Lake. I had intended it to be 2 nights of boondocking, but it got extended to 3, and could easily have been a week.

I pulled away from Lone Butte at 10:45, with a weather forecast calling for a mixed day and then some sun for a day and then all sunshine for two days. Farwell Canyon is a place where photographers particularly welcome the sun.

Lone Butte, BC
It’s 170 km from Lone Butte to Farwell Canyon – a nice easy day through pleasant country. Much of the route is on BC Highway 97, seen in the next photo.

BC Highway 97
Some fairly major highway re-construction south of Williams Lake was a minor delay.

Construction on BC Highway 97 south of Williams Lake
At 1:20, I turned south on the Farwell Canyon Road. This is a major logging route so kept in decent condition (though it can get very dusty), and my destination was 22 km ahead.

Farwell Canyon Road
The Farwell Canyon Road has miles of switchbacks to get down to the Chilcotin River and then back up into logging country beyond the canyon.

Switchbacks on the Farwell Canyon Road
By 2:00, we were all set up, ready to do a lot of exploring and a lot of relaxing. At Farwell Canyon, there’s no wifi, no cell service – you’re even out of the range of any radio stations. There are also very few other people – it’s just you and this incredibly powerful place.

Farwell Canyon, BC
As always, Molly quickly showed the rest of us how to get into the “relaxing” part of this stay πŸ™‚

My cat Molly relaxing in the RV at Farwell Canyon, BC
A couple of signs warn of the danger of the cliff we were parked at the top of. Surviving a fall would be unlikely.

Dangerous cliffs at Farwell Canyon, BC
A very long dog walk got things off to a good start, and then after feeding the kids it was time for a big dinner for me. The wine is a special batch I built for Cathy, with half the usual sweetness and alcohol content – a nice summer refresher.

Dinner in the RV at Farwell Canyon, BC
Three much younger guys were relaxing down on the river beach. Their footprints show their different ideas about how to enjoy this country.

Footprints in the dirt at Farwell Canyon, BC
For the initial few walks, Bella and Tucker were on leash most of the time, until they got used to the new sights and smells. Dangers abound there, and regardless of what some other people think about them being on leash in a place like that, their safety is paramount. They soon got to be free for most of the walks to and from Pothole Ranch, seen in the next photo.

Pothole Ranch, Farwell Canyon, BC
Back up at the RV, marvelling at what Mother Nature has created here.

Farwell Canyon, BC
A couple of fellows about my age stopped to chat and asked about a good camping spot for a tent. I suggested Pothole Ranch, and they set up camp right below me. They were on their way to the Bowron Lakes for an 8-day guided canoe trip around the circuit, and I told them how incredible it was when my best friend Randy and I did it in 1967.

Pothole Ranch, Farwell Canyon, BC
A telephoto view of the Pothole Ranch from the cliff edge.

Pothole Ranch, Farwell Canyon, BC
The road down to the Pothole Ranch wasn’t suitable for my RV last year, and though I was surprised to see that it’s been graded (for a Highways water truck, I expect), I prefer being up top. Among the reasons, I like trucks, especially logging trucks, and one goes by about every 10-15 minutes on weekdays.

Logging truck and RV at Farwell Canyon, BC
It’s hard to judge scale with the sagebrush, but I’d guess that needle spire at the top of the next photo is close to 30 meters (100 feet) high. I planned on hiking up the river from the bridge to see how close I could get, but ran out of time (and need to keep some exploring for next time, anyway).

Farwell Canyon, BC
Whoohoo, freedom to raise dust, down at the Pothole Ranch! πŸ™‚

Dogs playing at the Pothole Ranch, Farwell Canyon, BC
I’ve taken a lot of photos at the Pothole Ranch the past 3 years, but am still finding new subjects, or the same subjects with different lighting.

Pothole Ranch, Farwell Canyon, BC

Pothole Ranch, Farwell Canyon, BC
Time for a little drive, back up the hill. A logging truck is just starting across the bridge. I let him go by so I could wander slowly up – though he wasn’t exactly going up quickly!

Bridge at Farwell Canyon, BC
Looking down the Chilcotin River. I expect that that’s a fine rafting trip – lots of fairly gentle water with a few exciting rapids thrown in.

Chilcotin River below Farwell Canyon, BC
This narrow peninsula sticking out between two deep ravines has attracted many walkers, judging by the trail. It doesn’t go anywhere except a cliff edge a few feet beyond what you can see.

Farwell Canyon, BC
On that wander, I met a fellow in an RV who was looking for a big waterfall that a woman at the Williams Lake Visitor Information Centre had told him about. I told him that I’d covered a lot of ground in the area and had neither seen nor heard about a waterfall. There’s not a lot of water around to fall, to start with. When we got back to the motorhome, though, the kids and I went exploring, to the only creek that could have a waterfall. We reached a very old little dam, and the brush beyond was too thick, and the grade too gentle, to warrant continuing the quest.

Farwell Canyon, BC
From that creek, we walked up a road that hasn’t seen traffic of any kind in many years. It led to this beautiful ranchland that’s out of sight from the canyon viewing areas or the Pothole. A great place to Bella and Tucker to blow off some steam.

Farwell Canyon, BC
Damn! The cactus can be beautiful, but not when it’s stuck to your dog’s paw. Tucker learned in Lillooet and now Bella got her lesson. I didn’t have a shirt to wrap around my hand to get it off as I did in Lillooet, but my shorts served the same purpose. Ouch…

Cactus flowering at Farwell Canyon, BC
The mixed clouds and sun made photography challenging in many ways, but also brought on some really interesting lighting on the canyon hoodoos.

Farwell Canyon, BC
We weren’t nearly ready to quit yet, so went back down to the Pothole Ranch.

Farwell Canyon, BC
From up top, I had seen a grave marker that I hadn’t noticed before. It’s for Norman Louis Stieman, 1930-2014.

Grave of Norman Louis Stieman (1930-2014) at Farwell Canyon, BC
The composition of most of the slopes at Farwell Canyon seems to be quite uniform, but the layering of sands, clays, and gravels in this cliff at the head of the canyon is really complex.

Complex gravel/sand layering at Farwell Canyon, BC

Complex gravel/sand layering at Farwell Canyon, BC
Now it was time to relax and enjoy a beer in the warm sun – the temperature hit about 27°C.

Relaxing at Farwell Canyon, BC
It didn’t take long before I couldn’t stand to see the poor Tracker so dirty. Luckily, the do-it-yourself Chilcotin car wash was only a couple of blocks away πŸ™‚

Car wash at Farwell Canyon, BC
Dawn at Farwell Canyon – 04:45. Wow, what a way to start the day!

Dawn at Farwell Canyon, BC
At 06:00, the hoodoos had lit up beautifully.

Farwell Canyon, BC
The next exploring would be done without doggies – we’d had a busy morning that I’ll tell you about in the next post, and they were due for a nap anyway. I drove back up the hill to the start of the main access to the Farwell Canyon Desert.

Farwell Canyon, BC
The plaque on the rock at the trailhead is “In memory of Wayne Dale Fisher, Gang Ranch Cowboy. Born March 11, 1945, lost in flash flood April 12, 1962. Owner of future famous bucking horse Paper Doll.”

Farwell Canyon, BC
That soft dirt felt so good! But the trail soon required footwear.

Farwell Canyon, BC
The trail goes steeply down and back up again to cross a couple of deep ravines. In the bottom of the ravines, wild roses add fragrance to the dry air.

Farwell Canyon, BC
A few hundred meters/yards from the roses, a very different landscape, suitable for cattle ranching and not much else without irrigation. Well, cattle ranching and hiking for a few πŸ™‚

Farwell Canyon, BC
This is the view from the high point on the access trail to the desert. Stunning, breathtaking, incredible – take your pick of superlatives.

Farwell Canyon, BC
Off to the left of the view in the photo above, the small desert, with its large and very active dunes.

Desert at Farwell Canyon, BC
Most of the dunes are slowly being stabilized by vegetation – grasses, wild roses and trees – but the dune in the centre is still resisting all colonization efforts.

Desert at Farwell Canyon, BC
The wind very quickly removes footprints. I had seen the person who made these leave via a shortcut as I approached.

Desert at Farwell Canyon, BC
I saw people reach the desert last year by climbing up from the bridge, but had a look at that route this time and choose not to use it.

Farwell Canyon, BC
The sand was too hot to walk on with bare feet πŸ™‚

Farwell Canyon, BC
It’s always nice to be able to celebrate these little victories with a cold beer. Bowen Island Brewing’s Artisan IPA tasted really good on the coast, and was even better here in the high desert.

Bowen Island Brewing's Artisan IPA beer at Farwell Canyon, BC
On the drive back to the motorhome, I stopped to walk out onto the bridge for some photos. Usually these one-lane bridges don’t have allowances for pedestrians – huge thanks to whoever made this walkway happen.

Farwell Canyon, BC
The late afternoon of Day 53. A very happy Bella….

Farwell Canyon, BC
…and her very happy Dad πŸ™‚ I have a strange connection with this dry country. I’ve always been drawn to it, but I don’t really know why. Perhaps I lived here in a previous life. Perhaps I’ll need to just keep coming back until I figure it out.

Murray Lundberg at Farwell Canyon, BC

Before moving on, the next post will be about a 4×4 drive into the furthest reaches of Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park.

Driving from Lillooet to Hat Creek Ranch and Lone Butte

After 3 excellent days camped in Lillooet, on Day 49 of the trip, June 13th, we moved on to visit a high school friend and her husband in Lone Butte. On the way, I finally stopped to visit historic Hat Creek Ranch.

We pulled away from the Fraser Cove RV Park just after 10:30, but I hadn’t gone very far north on Highway 99 before regretting not coming up here with the Tracker. When I saw this large waterfall, I knew that I wasn’t quite finished with Lillooet yet.

Waterfall north of Lillooet, BC
At the next pullout, I stopped and unhooked the Tracker to go almost back to Lillooet. It only takes a few minutes to unhook the “toad”, and I sometimes do it 3 times a day to go exploring.

Disconnecting my RV toad
Here’s a closer look at that waterfall. With the binoculars, I could see that there’s a road that goes to the base of the falls, or close to it. Something for the next trip.

Waterfall north of Lillooet, BC
Then I continued south to a viewpoint over Lillooet. That’s The Old Bridge in the foreground, the Fraser Cove RV Park above and to the left of it.

Lillooet, BC
The viewpoint also offers a great view of the railway bridge.

Railway bridge at Lillooet, BC
Across the highway from the viewpoint, a pretty interesting erosion channel is forming in the cliff.

Erosion at Lillooet, BC
At 10:30, the Tracker was hooked up to the motorhome again, and we were headed north and east. Just after I got through the narrow underpass ahead, I saw a commercial van come to a sliding stop when an oncoming semi already filled that space.

BC Highway 99 north of Lillooet, BC
I love this country, and there are a few places I want to explore on the next trip down. The Fountain Valley and Pavilion Mountain roads in particular are great day-trips out of Lillooet. That’s the Fraser River in the next photo.

The Fraser River from BC Highway 99 north of Lillooet, BC
The variety in the terrain is wonderful, from irrigated fields to dry sagebrush-dotted slopes and rugged cliffs.

BC Highway 99 north of Lillooet, BC
Continuing through the dryland ranching country, at noon.

Ranching along BC Highway 99 north of Lillooet, BC
At 12:15 I reached an area that looks so out of place that I always have a “where am I?” moment or two. From out of the dry hills, these massive limestone mountains suddenly appear.

Limestone cliffs along BC Highway 99 west of Cache Creek
At the eastern edge of the limestone mountains, a cement plant has been making use of the resource for decades.

Cement plant along BC Highway 99 west of Cache Creek
Dropping down to meet Highway 97 north of Cache Creek, at 12:30.

I’ve driven past Historic Hat Creek Ranch probably 100 times, and for many reasons had never stopped for a visit before. The parking lot was only about 20% full, so this looked like a good day to rectify that. Before going in, the dogs and I had a good long play in the field out front, so they were ready for a nap.

Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
That’s a restaurant on the left, and the admissions area to the right. Admission is $13.50 for adults, $12 for seniors, or $30 for a family.

Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
I soon had my wristband and could go an explore the site.

Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC

The first building you come to once on the property is a blacksmith shop, and I had a long chat with the blacksmith. He’s a certified wheelwright, and he and his wife come to volunteer here each summer – she does the baking. I was curious about how one becomes a wheelwright today – he told me that the Western Development Museum offers courses.

From this point on, you need a wristband. I find it intersting that the blacksmith shop is open to the non-paying public. A hook to get people interested in the ranch as a whole?

Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
The ranch as we see it today looks as it did in 1901. The B.X. Barn is the first building you come to. It was the home of the B.C. Express Company, which transported people and freight on the Cariboo Wagon Road which ran right where I shot the next photo from.

B.X. Barn - Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
The mower shed across from the B.X. Barn houses much more than mowers, including this stage coach that carries people around the property.

Mower shed - Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
The worker on the right in the next photo is leading a miniature horse to its corral. It was still early in the season, so many volunteers and animals hadn’t arrived yet. While I don’t like crowds, a little more action would have been nice. What a fussy guy πŸ™‚

Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
Hat Creek House is the main focus of the ranch. Many of the rooms inside (the guest rooms in particular) have not been restored, but have been left much as they were found.

Hat Creek Roadhouse - Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
The detail on this door of the roadhouse is wonderful. I expect that was some carpenter’s creative outlet for a few days during a long winter.

Door detail at the Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
An important part of any good roadhouse, to settle the dust from the trail, was the saloon.

Saloon in the Hat Creek Roadhouse - Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
There’s some really intriguing electrical wiring on the ceiling of the roadhouse kitchen. I have no idea how the electrons travel through that. I wonder what a 1901 Electrical Code Book looks like?

Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
Ranch women had to be tough, but apparently some of them needed to escape into a romantic life occasionally πŸ™‚

Ranch Romance magazines at Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
Back outside the roadhouse, the orchard shows how water and hard work started to transform this country a century and a half ago.

Orchard at Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
The miners’ camp looks like t would be a fun place to have some interpreters at.

Miners' camp at Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
This cool unicycle-wheelbarrow contraption is at the miners’ camp. It must have taken a substantial amount of practice to keep it upright on a rough trail!

Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
This horse-drawn wagon is available to take visitors from the ranch to the Native Interpretation Centre a few hundred meters away. The building to the right is the greeting place, where an introduction to the Shuswap First Nation cultue is presented.

Shuswap Native Village at Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
These women put on a powerful demonstration of drumming and singing, significant parts of many events and ceremonies.

Shuswap Native Village at Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
This pit house (kekuli), built hald undeground for insulation, was the traditional winter home of the Shuswap people. Accommodating 25-30 people, this one can be rented for overnight accommodation – a unique family or school camping outing.

Pithouse at the Historic Hat Creek Ranch, BC
I didn’t leave Hat Creek Ranch until after 3:00, and I expect that when everything is running, a visit could take most of a day. At 3:25, though, I was heading north on Highway 97, coming into Clinton.

Clinton, BC
At 4:30, I reached the tiny community of Lone Butte, named after the lone butte that dominates the view as you enter the community.

Lone Butte, BC
I find Lone Butte to be charming. There’s not a lot here, but my friends and I have had some good meals, and the Water Tower historic site in the centre of town is interesting.

Lone Butte, BC
You don’t have to look far to find other interesting buildings such as this old garage.

Lone Butte, BC

Arriving at the home of my friend and her husband, I quickly decided that I needed to stay for a couple of nights. A party out at a remote lake almost turned my stay into more than 2 nights, but I was starting to feel the pull to the North, and had a few must-dos still on The List. Day 50 of the trip was all “visiting” stuff, and on Day 51 I headed northwest to Farwell Canyon.

Driving from Lillooet to Goldbridge and Bralorne

One of my aims for our visit to Lillooet was to spend a day on “the road much less travelled”, to the historic gold mining towns of Goldbridge and Bralorne. What a day it was!

Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window. Note that Google Maps thinks that it should take almost 3½ hours to drive the 123 km (76 mi) – it’s not actually that bad! πŸ™‚

Map of Lillooet to Bralorne road
At 10:15, we pulled away from downtown Lillooet. The distance sign says “Shalath 69; Seton Portage 76; Goldbridge 101.”

Leaving Lillooet for Bralorne
The route to Bralorne is one road as you drive it, but the sections as you go west are called the Moha Road, Bridge River Road, and Lillooet-Pioneer Roads (Road 40). In the next photo, we’re dropping back down to the Fraser River, 5 minutes from Lillooet.

A pullout along the Fraser River called for a photo stop.

At 10:30, the first of the day’s one-lane bridges is just ahead. It crosses the Bridge River, which we’d be close to for most of the day.

A little canyon on the Bridge River, just above the first bridge.

At 10:35, the sign says: “Caution, narrow winding road next 60 km.”

The country changes quite rapidly as you climb to the northwest away from the Fraser River. This was shot at 10:45 – only 30 minutes from downtown Lillooet.

Looking back to the east at 10:50.


Far down along the river at 11:03, a mineral spring?

Looking back to the east again, from the same spot I took the photo above from.

The power of even a fairly small river is shown by this horseshoe canyon left as the river cut a shorter path.

A GPS look at the series of switchbacks that drop the road back down to the Bridge River, at 11:15.

This is what that series of switchbacks looks like in real life.

By 11:23, the drive had taken a major jump in impressiveness!

The view ahead, 3 minutes later.

The Terzaghi Dam came into view at 11:35. Built in 1948, this is a major component of the Bridge River Hydro System.

Carpenter Lake was formed by the Terzaghi Dam. With the Bridge River as high as it was, I was surprised to see the lake so low. Water from Carpenter Lake, though, is used to keep the level of Seton Lake up by means of penstocks drilled through the mountain between the two lakes.

At 12:15, Tyaughton Creek empties into Carpenter Lake.

Another one-lane bridge, over Tyaughton Creek.

At 12:30, we had reached the head of Carpenter Lake.

Approaching Goldbridge a few minutes later, I stopped at a historic site that the community is trying to develop. Haylmore was the home of the Mining Recorder in the early 1900s, and when men didn’t have the money to record a claim they wanted to stake, he would have them build rock walls. While there are a lot of rock walls, photos from that period show many more, and in much better condition. A little craft store and visitor centre is being operated on the site – one of their home-made scone was just what Bella and Tucker and I needed.

A botanist who visited the site has just let the community know that this iris may be one originally planted by Mr. Haylmore more than a century ago.

Haylmore historic site, Gold Bridge, BC
“Welcome to Gold Bridge.” Note that two words are used. Even in official ways, even within the community, “Gold Bridge” and “Goldbridge” are used interchangeably. On this sign, the population is noted as 43, making it the service capital of the region πŸ™‚

Welcome to Gold Bridge, BC
The Goldbridge Hotel, at 1:20. It’s for sale, as are a high percentage of properties in the region.

The Goldbridge Hotel, Gold Bridge, BC
A heritage sign on the steep climb up to Bralorne, at 1:30. “Bridge River Gold. The famed Bralorne and Pioneer mines constitute British Columbia’s leading gold camp. In the 1860s, prospectors from the Fraser River and Cariboo region found gold in the gravel of Bridge River. Hardrock claims were staked in the 1890s. More than $100,000,000 in gold has come from the rich ore of these mines since 1932.

Below the heritage sign, some brilliant wildflowers.

Although it doesn’t show in the photo, those rocks on the road are very sharp, and could puncture a tire.

Bralorne, at 1:40. Made it! My Dad brought me here in 1964 during one of our old-mine exploring trips, and this was my first visit since. A sign on the left says: “Pub and Motel For Sale. Motel is Open.” The sign on the door of the motel with no apparent name said: “Closed”.

Bralorne, BC
“Welcome to Bralorne, BC. Population 9.” I had been chatting with 1/9 of the entire population of Bralorne at the Haylmore historic site πŸ™‚

Welcome to Bralorne, BC. Population 9
The former offices of the Bralorne Pioneer Mine has a small sign that it’s now the Bralorne Pioneer Motel, but it didn’t seem to be open.

Bralorne, BC
The old Bridge River Valley Community Church is lovely – one of the very few well-maintained buildings in Bralorne.

Bridge River Valley Community Church in Bralorne, BC
Peeking through a window at a stained glass panel.

Bridge River Valley Community Church in Bralorne, BC
Across the street from the church, someone’s plan that died – they’re all for sale. A fairly nice home nearby had $139,900 posted on their For Sale sign.

Bralorne, BC
A roadside sign said that the Bralorne Museum was open. It wasn’t. A car outside the museum hadn’t moved in many months.

Bralorne Museum, BC
The Bralorne Hall. A sign beside the door on the right indicates that it was (maybe still is) the post office. Canada Post doesn’t acknowledge Bralorne as a community, though – the post office name is “Gold Bridge, V0K 1P0.” The Bralorne resident I was talking to at Haylmore had told me that.

Bralorne - Gold Bridge post office
The only person that I saw in Bralorne was on the porch of this house.

Bralorne, BC
“Mines Motel. Vacancy.” Well, there would be a vacancy if it was open. It wasn’t.

Mines Motel, Bralorne, BC
A barely-legible small sign on the front of this building indicates that it was last open as the Bralorne Inn.

Bralorne Inn, Bralorne, BC

I only spent a little over 20 minutes at Bralorne. There is a lot to see and do in the area, but you need to go with a plan, and I didn’t have one beyond getting there. The road in to Bralorne is so rough that I don’t know if I’d take the RV in – it will certainly be a slow trip if I do. Bralorne can be seen as sad, but it’s really just the reality of what was basically a company town. They virtually all die. Attempts have been made to turn Bralorne (and Goldbridge) into tourist towns, but with no luck. Communities like these attract a certain type of strong, independent people that I really admire. They’re always very interesting places to get into a conversation – preferably in a pub, but a historic site works, too.

Heading back down towards Goldbridge, at 2:10.

The road from Bralorne to Goldbridge, BC
The steep final drop to Goldbridge is done with a series of switchbacks…

The road from Bralorne to Goldbridge, BC
…as the GPS verifies.

The road from Bralorne to Goldbridge, BC
I just passed quickly through Goldbridge on the way to Bralorne, but had a look around the community on the return. This building was The Model Bakery back in the day. Kay and Bill Bean opened it in 1934, and ran it until 1967. They sold their first batch of bread – 50 loaves – for 5 cents each or 6 loaves for 25 cents. In the 1950s, they were baking 6,000 loaves of bread each week! As well as lot of other buns, cakes, pies, and so on.

The Model Bakery, Goldbridge, BC
The Goldbridge Community School.

Goldbridge Community School
At 2:25, we were back on the road towards Lillooet, though still with some exploring to do.

The head of Carpenter Lake.

The head of Carpenter Lake, BC.
I stopped at BC Hydro’s Gun Creek Recreation Site for a look. The campground is beautiful, and suitable for a rig my size – only one of the 20 or so sites was occupied.

BC Hydro's Gun Creek Recreation Site
Across the road from the Recreation Site is “A. Kerik Camp”. I noticed it on the way but didn’t think anything about it. This time, I noticed the word “memorial”, and stopped for a look.

A. Kerik Camp - prospectors' memorial
This large boulder (a volcanic bomb?), complete with a cave in it, has been turned into “A memorial to all prospectors who have lived and died looking for the elusive minerals.”

Kerik Camp Prospectors Memorial, on the Bralorne Road
The founding plaque is dated 2011, and below it are plaques for Albert Kerik: “November 25, 1929 – . A love of prospecting is to be as close to Nature and God at the same time.” and Vimy Ida May (McEwen) Kerik: “Being a Prospector’s Wife was not always easy!”

Kerik Camp Prospectors Memorial, on the Bralorne Road
As well as memorial plaques, there are all manner of mining memorabilia on the memorial. There is a handwritten note from “Bert” – Albert Kerik, no doubt – offering to mount plaques for anyone who wants one added. I was pleased to add my name with “Granduc 1975” in the guest book.

Kerik Camp Prospectors Memorial, on the Bralorne Road
At 3:40 we were back at the Terzaghi Dam.

Terzaghi Dam and Carpenter Lake
I really wanted to see the community of Seton Portage, on Seton Lake, but the time was too late. The tunnel that the road to Seton Portage starts with, though, was irresistible!

Tunnel on the road to Seton Portage, BC
I love tunnels. That was probably a mandatory requirement for the job working underground at the Granduc copper mine.

Tunnel on the road to Seton Portage, BC
Looking down the Bridge River from the top of the Terzaghi Dam.

Looking down the Bridge River from the top of the Terzaghi Dam.
The Bridge River was really raging, going through the trees in many places.

High water on the Bridge River
Back at the most impressive few miles of the road, at 4:00.

On the road from Bralorne to Lillooet, BC
One final shot, at 4:20.

On the road from Bralorne to Lillooet, BC

For a few reasons, the drive to Bralorne and back will remain one of the most memorable days of the trip. I know that Dad was with me, and that he enjoyed it, too – it was very much in the style that he taught me…