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.



Exploring the Tumbler Ridge Geopark – Kinuseo Falls and the Stone Corral

Just after noon on Day 51 of the trip – Friday, June 15th – I began to explore the Tumbler Ridge area, led by local photographer Collin Ball. The area has incredible and incredibly varied terrain to explore, encompassed by Monkman Provincial Park and the much broader Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark. An indication of how significant this area is, is the fact that on September 23rd, 2014, the Tumbler Ridge Geopark became a Global Geopark, supported by UNESCO.

A UNESCO Global Geopark is an area recognized as having internationally significant geological heritage. Geoparks aim to reconnect people to the earth, whether through hiking trails, learning about mountain building, eating food grown in the local soils, or celebrating the stories of the people who have lived here since time immemorial. The geology in a Geopark may be linked to sites with interesting archaeology, wildlife, history, folklore and culture. Tourism industry promotion in a Geopark focuses on highlighting the geographical character of a place.

The Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society, made up entirely of volunteers, designs, builds and maintains a network of 30 hiking trails (almost 100 km of them), in cooperation with BC Rec Sites & Trails, BC Parks, etc., and there are many other trails as well. In the 3 days we had, Collin was determined to show me some of the best.

Kinuseo Falls

I had visited Kinuseo Falls on my initial 28-hour discovery of Tumbler Ridge in May 2016, but it’s too amazing to not return to, so that’s where we began. It’s a 65-km drive to the falls from Tumbler Ridge, 48 km on gravel, some of which was rather surprisingly rough. The brochure Visiting Kinuseo Falls (pdf, 1.2 MB) has a lot of information about the history, and what to see at the falls and in the area around them.

For most people, this is the first view of the waterfall – looking down the Murray River and over the lip of the falls while on the way to the first viewpoint, a large viewing platform.

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
It’s about 70 meters (230 feet) to the bottom of Kinuseo Falls. By comparison, Niagara Falls is 51 meters high (167 feet).

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
A 10mm lens is needed to get the whole scene in from the Upper Viewpoint, one of the 5 main viewing locations.

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
The Leake Viewpoint provides what many consider to be the classic view of Kinuseo Falls. It was first captured by professional photographer R. E. Leake in 1938.

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Collin had brought his buddy Jewel along, and she was having a ball. This is the view from the Downstream Viewpoint.

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Along the trails, a wide variety of flowers were in bloom, including this salmonberry.

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Our final trail was steep and rough, down to the base of the falls. On my previous visit, I hadn’t found this unmarked trail, so didn’t get very close to the base of the falls.

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Jewel quickly proved to be quite an adventurer! Forest, granite, water – it’s all fun. Especially water 🙂

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
The base of the waterfall was the highlight for me. The power is stunning. The amount of spray made photography difficult, especially when looking up at the lip of the falls, but I got quite a few photos.

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
This may be my favourite from from the entire 59-day trip. My second visit to Kinuseo Falls certainly won’t be my last.

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Are you tired of photos of Kinuseo Falls yet? 🙂

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Even the wood at the base of the falls caught my attention for a few photos, with logs and smaller pieces polished by the pounding of the water.

Kinuseo Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
This one-minute video I shot at the base of the falls with a super-wide 10mm lens will give you a better idea of the power of Kinuseo Falls.


The Stone Corral

From Kinuseo Falls we backtracked 3 km to the Stone Corral trailhead. A 16-page brochure as well as interpretive panels help visitors understand the trail network that totals 4.5 km, and 20 of the features they’re seeing.

The Stone Corral Trail - Tumbler Ridge, BC
The trail starts off quite level, and goes by the beaver dam at the far end of this pool.

Beaver dam along the Stone Corral Trail - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Like most of the trails in the Geopark, assists such as stairs and ropes have been installed where appropriate, but the trails are as natural as possible.

The Stone Corral Trail - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Collin and I had quickly found out that our interests and hiking abilities are extremely similar. For someone like me who spends 95% of my hiking time alone, that was quite a surprise – a very welcome one.

Collin Ball photographing a flower along the Stone Corral Trail - Tumbler Ridge, BC

Flower along the Stone Corral Trail - Tumbler Ridge, BC
This is the Stone Corral, fenced on 3 sides by impressive limestone cliffs. “This is a good example of a doline or sinkhole that forms in areas of weaker limestone rock where the surface caves in.”

The Stone Corral - Tumbler Ridge, BC
“You can bend me but you can’t break me,” this hardy little tree seems to say.

The Stone Corral Trail - Tumbler Ridge, BC
It was fun to walk into the Corral Cave. It’s only 20 meters deep, but the ice, the smooth limestone walls, and the embryonic stalactites were interesting. Luckily, Collin had brought a small flashlight.

The Corral Cave - Tumbler Ridge, BC

The Corral Cave - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Jewel is well used to the pace of a photographer, and a little break high above the Stone Corral while Collin was shooting seemed to be welcome.

The Stone Corral Trail - Tumbler Ridge, BC
The vantage point high above the Stone Corral shows the 3 walls of the corral, with Castle Mountain in the distance.

The Stone Corral Trail - Tumbler Ridge, BC
This little sinkhole is the exit of the Porcupine Cave. It’s just large enough for a smaller adult to get out.

The Porcupine Cave - Tumbler Ridge, BC
The entry to the Porcupine Cave is larger…

The Porcupine Cave - Tumbler Ridge, BC
…but I still wasn’t going in 🙂 The cave is about 10 meters long, and there’s a chamber in the middle that you can stand up in, though.

The Porcupine Cave - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Many of the limestone cliffs have fossils, the best being a high face known as The Mural.

Limestone cliff along the Stone Corral Trail - Tumbler Ridge, BC
For part of the descent, the trail is steep enough that ropes are welcome.

The Stone Corral Trail - Tumbler Ridge, BC

We spent a total of 2 hours and 20 minutes on the Stone Corral Trail, about normal according to the brochure which says 2-3 hours. Next on Collin’s list was Canary Falls, accessed from the same small parking lot as the Stone Corral.

Canary Falls (a.k.a. Jade Falls)

The lip of Canary Falls is only about 100 meters/yards off the road, then the trail drops very steeply down the slope alongside the waterfall. Rope assists have been installed at the steepest sections.

Canary Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Even Collin was surprised by how beautiful this waterfall was, as it had a much higher volume of water going over it than he’d seen before. In the deep shadows, getting the long exposures needed to silken the water was simple. The next photo was shot at 1 second and f22, with the zoom lens at 14mm.

Canary Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
There were lots of angles to shoot from. Having my Keen sport sandals on (as usual) made crossing and getting into the creek to shoot easy.

Canary Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
Getting right into the spray 🙂

Canary Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC
One final photo of Canary Falls, and we began the 62-km drive back to Tumbler Ridge.

Canary Falls - Tumbler Ridge, BC

We were both very pleased with how this day had gone, and made plans to meet early the next morning to continue exploring.



The back way into Tumbler Ridge – Highways 671 and 52 from the east

In the afternoon of Day 50 of the trip – Thursday, June 14th – I headed north from Grande Cache on Highway 40. The next stop would be Tumbler Ridge, 391 km (243 mi) to the northwest, but we would need to overnight along the way and I had no idea where that would be. I was going to take the “back route” to Tumbler via Highways 671 and 52, though I’d been warned that it was rough.

Because Highway 52 dips so far south, this route only saves 43 km over the more usual all-paved route through Dawson Creek, but I wanted to see what it was like regardless of other considerations. As usual, click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Grande Cache to Kelly Lake to Tumbler Ridge
By 3:00 pm, we were well into the rich oil and gas country south of Grande Prairie. The next photo shows a new pipeline route on the left, then an industrial road, then Highway 40.

Highway 40 in the rich oil and gas country south of Grande Prairie
From the air, the region south of Grande Prairie is a maze of seismic lines, pipeline routes, drill pads, access roads, and other signs of past and present oil and gas activities.

From the air, the region south of Grande Prairie is a maze of seismic lines, pipeline routes, drill pads, access roads, and other signs of past and present oil and gas activities.
It began raining heavily at about 4:00, and at the same time, we caught up to a rig move that was now spraying mud. By the time we reached Grande Prairie, my side windows and mirrors were so dirty that my vision was very limited. In the crazy traffic of Grande Prairie, that made doing anything but passing through in as straight a line as possible unsafe.

Heavy rain on Highway 40 south of Grande Prairie
The rain stopped as we drove though Grande Prairie. Reaching Beaverlodge at about 5:30, I stopped for a big load of fuel ($316.00 worth at $1.379/litre), and then to make everyone dinner. We stayed there for quite a while and I thought about spending the night, but finally decided to put a few more miles on.

Dinner in the RV for the cat
The Highway 671 turn was well marked, and we were soon passing from the open prairies into bush country that was again full of signs of oil and gas activity. There was thankfully no industrial traffic, though – perhaps that area has been largely shut down.

Highway 671 west of Beaverlodge, Alberta
At 6:40 we passed a small sign saying that we were entering British Columbia, and the pavement ended. A few minutes later, we came to a T, with no signs indicating which might be the correct way. I guessed and turned right. When the road got quite rough and I was wondering where we might end up, I finally turned on the GPS, which confirmed that my choice had been correct. The community of Kelly Lake is here somewhere, but I never saw any indication of where it might be.

The Kelly Lake Road, BC
Right at 7:00 pm, we reached Highway 52.

Highway 52 at the Kelly Lake Road, BC
There was a large pullout at the junction, and as it was the first I’d seen since leaving Beaverlodge, it was a pretty easy choice to park there for the night. Through the night, I only heard 4 or 5 vehicles go by – this really is The Road Less Travelled.

Highway 52 at the Kelly Lake Road, BC
After a leisurely morning, we were on the road by about 06:30, and 20 minutes or so later, we reached a 36-km stretch of gravel. It wasn’t clear yet what the weather was going to do.

A gravel stretch on BC Highway 52
This area had apparently got the heavy rain we been hit by on Highway 40, and the road condition varied from good to very soft. There are some wonderful views.

A gravel stretch on BC Highway 52

A gravel stretch on BC Highway 52
After 36 minutes on the gravel (a 60 km/h average speed – not bad), pavement was just ahead.

BC Highway 52 south of Tumbler Ridge
A pair of hairpin curves drop the highway into one valley just south of Tumbler Ridge.

BC Highway 52 south of Tumbler Ridge
At 09:00, we reached Tumbler Ridge, and I eventually found my way around a lot of road construction to reach the visitor center, which has a huge parking lot behind it. With no signs stating that I couldn’t, my plan was to park there for a 3-night stay.

Welcome to Tumbler Ridge, BC
The motorhome had picked up a good load of mud from the gravel part of Highway 40.

Muddy RV from BC Highway 52 at Tumbler Ridge
The Tracker would certainly need a bath before she could be used!

Muddy 4x4 from BC Highway 52 at Tumbler Ridge

I had arranged to spend my time in Tumbler Ridge with very talented local photographer Collin Ball who I met on Facebook. He’s actually a cousin of one of my cousins. We met for breakfast, and immediately hit it off. This was going to be a great visit 🙂



Exploring Grande Cache: Sulphur Gates and Eaton Falls

After re-visiting Ogre Canyon near Hinton in the morning of Day 49 of the trip – Wednesday, June 13 – we headed north to Grande Cache for a night or maybe two. I had several hikes in mind, with Sulphur Gates and Eaton Falls being at the top of the list.

By 1:15 pm we were northbound on Highwy 40, signed as the “Scenic Route to Alaska”.

Northbound on Highwy 40, signed as the 'Scenic Route to Alaska'
For some 30 km south of Grande Cache, the highway is being completely rebuilt. The new road will be wider, and there will be passing lanes on most of the hills.

Construction on on Highwy 40 south of Grande Cache
My first stop in Grande Cache, as is often the case, was the visitor centre. I wanted a map of area hiking trails, and I needed a shop that would do an oil change on the RV for me. With both of those things accomplished, the woman I was talking to suggested the beautiful Municipal Campground as a good place to spend the night. I’m also paying attention to which visitor centres allow overnight parking for RVs, in response to a comment in an RV group that most in Canada allow it. My experience has been just the opposite, and now that I’m paying close attention to that, I’m convinced that few allow it (many don’t even have suitable parking for big RVs). Grande Cache has lots of parking but doesn’t allow overnighting.

Grande Cache Visitor Information Centre

I went to the shop that said on the phone that they could do an oil change, to confirm that when they saw what I’m driving. It took a few minutes to confirm that they had a filter, but yes, 08:00 the next morning would be great.

I was soon set up at the Grande Cache Municipal Campground, at a cost of $36.50. The sites are large but not very level. Although they claim they have free wifi, it actually only reaches 3 of the 77 sites. For me, the only place in the campground where I could sit down in a warm, dry location and get free wifi was the public toilet. If I would have known that, I wouldn’t have checked in, and I’m not likely to be back.

Grande Cache Municipal Campground
I took Bella and Tucker out, intending a long walk. Once we broke out of the forest about a kilometer away, though, an approaching rainstorm changed that plan. It seemed to be changing the plans of the ball players arriving for a game, too! A few minutes after getting back to the motorhome, heavy rain started.

An approaching rainstorm at Grande Cache, Alberta
I was back at “Nowhere to run auto detailing” at 08:00 Thursday morning. They’re actually much more than a detailing shop – they seem to do pretty much anything involving cars and trucks (and RVs). The service was great, the price very reasonable, and an hour later I was back on the road. I highly recommend them if you ever need anything in Grande Cache.

'Nowhere to run auto detailing' in Grande Cache
I had decided that the Sulphur Gates and Eaton Falls hikes were still the ones I wanted to do first. They’re both accessed by a gravel road that starts from Highway 40, six km north of Grande Cache. I disconnected the Tracker for the 6.8-km drive to the trailhead, as I couldn’t remember how RV-friendly it is.

RV and toad at the start of the road to the Sulphur Gates Recreation Area
The gravel road to the Sulphur Gates Provincial Recreation Area was in pretty good condition and as it turned out, there’s plenty of room to get turned around at the trailhead.

The gravel road to the Sulphur Gates Provincial Recreation Area
The Grande Cache Area Trails & Adventure Map (pdf, 2.7 MB) introduces Sulphur Gates this way: “If you have time for just one short walk, or want the best scenery possible for the minimum effort, this is the place you should go.” I concur 🙂

Sulphur Gates - Grande Cache, Alberta
The Town of Grande Cache continues: “A short 3 to 5 minute walk brings you to a series of platforms built on the cliffs that overlook the confluence of the Smoky and Sulphur Rivers. The last platform is a bit challenging for footing, but does have the best views.” There are 3 platforms – the highest can be seen in the next photo.

Sulphur Gates - Grande Cache, Alberta
The canyon of the Sulphur River appears to be very impressive for some distance upstream of its meeting with the Smoky River. The cliffs at the confluence are said to be 75 meters (246 feet) high.

The canyon of the Sulphur River at Sulphur Gates - Grande Cache, Alberta
Looking up the Smoky River into the Willmore Wilderness Park from the highest platform.

The Smoky River at Sulphur Gates - Grande Cache, Alberta
From near the upper viewing platform, I saw a small trail that I thought may lead down to the river. It didn’t, but it did lead me past some wonderful rock formations and more high cliffs.

Rock formation at Sulphur Gates - Grande Cache, Alberta
By 10:00 I was ready for Eaton Falls, summarized on the trail map as a “day hike” even though it’s only 6 km round trip. A little more than 10 minutes along the old road, you cross into Willmore Wilderness Park.

The trail to Eaton Falls at Grande Cache, Alberta
There are some rather grueling climbs on the road, but most of it is very pleasant walking. The trail map says that “the trail is wide and open, offering plenty of views to take your mind off your efforts.” Ummmm – no. The trail is in the forest all the way, and a short side trail leads to the only view, which is nothing special.

The trail to Eaton Falls at Grande Cache, Alberta
Right at 11:00, I reached the sign marking the 600-meter-long side trail to Eaton Falls.

The trail to Eaton Falls at Grande Cache, Alberta

The trail to Eaton Falls at Grande Cache, Alberta
Nothing I had read prepared me for the first sight of Eaton Falls. I haven’t been able to find a height on it, but I would guess about 80 meters (262 feet).

Eaton Falls at Grande Cache, Alberta
The tight canyon, which is dramatically cut away and curves over your head, offers a very limited view when you get near the base of the falls. The trail map cautions hikers to not venture under the cliffs as rocks frequently dislodge from the loose, crumbly sedimentary rock, but under those cliffs is where the views are.

Eaton Falls at Grande Cache, Alberta
I think my jaw fell open when I walked around the final corner. O!M!G! The sight was absolutely overpowering, with the canyon wall curving overhead and the magnificent waterfall.

Eaton Falls at Grande Cache, Alberta
The next photo was shot looking straight up to try to show you how much the canyon wall curves. Most of the photos were processed as HDR images to bring out the textures in both the lighted and shadowed areas.

Eaton Falls at Grande Cache, Alberta
Ultimately, I don’t feel that any of the many photos I shot do justice to Eaton Falls. It’s one of the most powerful canyon/waterfall combinations I’ve ever experienced, but it’s one of those places you have to experience for yourself.

Eaton Falls at Grande Cache, Alberta
The footing wasn’t good, but I can seldom resist getting wet at places like this. It’s an important part of the experience for me.


On my way out, I startled a moose, and he returned the favour with his crashing through the bush. This is definitely bear country, and on the hike I did a lot of thinking aloud to warn them that I was there. I didn’t see any bears until a couple of minutes down the road in the car. This black bear momma and twins would certainly not have been happy to meet me on the trail.

Black bear with twins on the road to Eaton Falls at Grande Cache, Alberta
I had another waterfall hike planned, but didn’t see the road as I drove north on Highway 40, and the motorhome doesn’t allow U-turns for another look.

Highway 40 heading north from Grande Cache

The next stop would be Tumbler Ridge, and as I headed in that direction I had no idea where I would overnight. When I asked the woman at the Grande Cache visitor information centre about whether the Highway 52 access to Tumbler Ridge was signed, she said that she didn’t think so, but also said “you don’t want to go that way – it’s very rough.” “Oh yes I do.” 🙂 So she printed a map off for me that showed the Highway 671 connection to it from north of Beaverlodge.



Another visit to Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta

Ogre Canyon is a place that I’ve thought about many times since my son first took Cathy and I to see it in September 2015. After that first visit, I posted “No photo or words can do justice to that sight – powerful, awesome, a spiritual experience…”. On Day 49 of the trip – Wednesday, June 13 – I headed back to that special place.

Just west of Hinton, the 40-km route to Ogre Canyon turns north on Highway 40, signed as the “Scenic Route to Alaska”. All routes to Alaska are scenic, and when you’re at that point, Highway 40 is certainly the shortest route.

Turning off Highway 16 on the Scenic Route to Alaska
The next turn is west onto Brule Road. A viewpoint has been built overlooking the Athabasca River, with interpretive panels about historic trade routes through the valley.

A viewpoint overlooking the Athabasca River, with interpretive panels about historic trade routes through the valley.
The tiny hamlet of Brule was once a thriving coal mining community, but less than 100 people live there now. The Ghost Towns of Canada site indicates that I should have a look around the next time I’m there.

Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta
The handout I’d picked up at the visitor information centre in Hinton said to drive through Brule, then park at the community centre and walk the 8 km to Ogre Canyon from the “dead end” on the main street. In fact it INSISTS that “all cars must be parked at the Hall“. The dead end, though, is a cul de sac, and if you angle left, you can continue driving.

Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta
The first few hundred meters feel odd, like you’re on private property – someone’s farm – but it is a public road. There are three horse gates that need to be opened, and closed after you drive through.

Horse gate on the road to Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta

Horse gate on the road to Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta
Twenty minutes from Brule, you reach a sign saying that you’re entering Rock Lake – Solomon Creek Wildland Provincial Park. This is really the first good indication that you’re on the correct road.

Rock Lake - Solomon Creek Wildland Provincial Park on the road to Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta
On my previous visit, we had walked a few kilometers because I had no idea how deep some of the mud puddles were. This time, I drove through all except this one, 30 minutes from Brule. I got out and had a good look at it, then parked at a spot where many others had also turned around.

Deep mud puddle on the road to Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta
The parking area for the the Ogre Canyon trailhead was only a hundred meters or so past the spot where I’d parked.

Parking area for the Ogre Canyon trailhead near Hinton, Alberta
The upper part of Ogre Canyon can be seen from the parking area. Similar cliffs line the road in for a few kilometers, though they’re no seen often through the forest.

Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta
An interpretive panel at the trailhead says that Ogre Canyon is a gorge that “has been cut into tough Devonian limestone of the Palliser Formation. These rock layers were laid down in the sea about 368 million years ago, then pushed up 45-85 million years ago during the building of the Rockies.” The gorge may have originally been a cave that had its roof scraped off by a glacier.

The trail to Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta
The short trail in only takes about 15 minutes. Bella and Tucker loved it.

The trail to Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta
Arriving at the canyon mouth, I immediately knew that I’d messed up. Even though the dogs needed an adventure, this is not a dog-friendly place, and my exploring would be very limited as a result. If I’d read my blog post from 3 years before, I would have realized that.

Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta
The next 4 photos are just shots of the canyon, all processed as HDR images to bring out the details. I neither got very far into the canyon nor did I spend as much time there as I would have liked. I’ll remember to go alone next time. Sorry, pups.

Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta

Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta

Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta

Ogre Canyon near Hinton, Alberta

Back in Hinton by noon, I hooked the Tracker back up to the motorhome, and after a quick lunch, we headed north to Grande Cache for a night or maybe two. Actually, I made a short stop at the Hinton visitor information centre to let them know that their information about both the Brule Sand Dunes and Ogre Canyon were completely wrong – you can’t drive to the dunes, and you can drive to the canyon.



In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton

The plan for my first full day in Hinton – Day 48 of the trip, Tuesday, June 12th – was to find the Brule Sand Dunes and to re-visit Ogre Canyon, which my son had taken Cathy and I to a few years ago. Things didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but it was a very interesting day 🙂

The day started off cloudy and dreary, and that was the forecast. By 08:00, though, clear skies were moving in from the southwest and I got ready for a big adventure, with lots of dog-friendly walking available.

Clear skies approaching Hinton
My first stop was at the visitor information centre. When I asked about the Brule Sand Dunes and Ogre Canyon and said that I had a good 4×4, the two women on duty gave me rough directions to the Brule Sand Dunes, and a handout about Ogre Canyon.

The view from downtown Hinton
At 09:25, I turned north off Highway 16 about 20 minutes west of Hinton. With signs pointing the way, this should be easy. Right? 🙂

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
Just off the highway, a kiosk held a large Public Land Use map that might be decipherable if you spent long enough with it. I couldn’t find any useful information on it, though.

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
As beautiful as this was, Bella doesn’t like bumpy roads. Sorry about your luck, sweety, Tucker and I do 🙂

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
Is this Canada’s most scenic sewage lagoon? I have no idea where the sewage came from – there are no buildings anywhere near it.

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
The gravel road suddenly turned ugly. This looked like at ATV track to me, but I’d go for a look. Maybe it would get better. Sure, that could happen 🙂

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
About 4 km in, I quit and turned around at the first possible opportunity. By then I was driving in a ditch so narrow and deep that the only way I could have gotten out of the Tracker would have been by climbing out a window.

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
Heading back out, here’s a look at the track I’d come in on. Yes, that’s stupid. Even when I was 25 years old, that would have been just looking for trouble.

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
I decided to do some exploring in the general area, and took the road leading to the Wildhorse Lake Recreation Area.

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
If nothing else, the kids could use a play, and Bella some water time, so Wildhorse Lake sounded like a good option.

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton

Wildhorse Lake, Hinton
There was only one other person at Wildhorse Lake and he was fishing a few hundred meters away, so it was a good place to chill for a while.

Wildhorse Lake, Hinton
On the way out, I made a short detour to see Kinky Lake and campground. The campground fee is $23 per night, including firewood. The sites are small and bare.

Fishing at Wildhorse Lake, Hinton
The road had forked on the way to Wildhorse Lake, ad I decided that the other road had potential to reach the Brule Sand Dunes. It started off well.

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
I came to an information kiosk, and the map on it made this look like a very good route to an even better part of the dune system, which runs along much of the south shore of the lake.

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
Alas, the gravel road soon turned into another sandy ATV trail. This is where I decided to turn around – the trail ahead turned and dropped sharply, and a wide spot was not far behind me.

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
When I tried to turn around, I got high-centered. I must be getting out of practise. So here I was, stuck a few miles from anywhere, alone except for Bella and Tucker, with no equipment for doing any 4×4 travel (like a shovel).

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
As I was digging myself out with a tire wrench and my hands, I heard the little angel on my shoulder laughing: “You haven’t screwed up badly in a long time, so I’m going to let you get away with this one. But I am going to make you think and work hard enough that you won’t forget the lesson.”

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton
I got the hill dug away, and in half an hour or so was pointed back in the right direction. My inReach satellite communicator had been on the job just in case, though 🙂

In search of the Brule Sand Dunes at Hinton

I was sort of adventured-out, so that was it for the day – I’d find Ogre Canyon the next day.