Neskonlith Meadows Wildflower Walk

Every spring Neskonlith Meadows is one of the best places to hike to see the early bloom of wildflowers.   A permit is needed  from the Band Office (see below), but it is worth the extra time and cost.

The avalanche lilies and buttercups come out first and are followed by yellow bells, then spring beauties.

Neskonlith Meradows 003rBluebells can be found in our area, but usually higher up.   In Neskonlith Meadows, the bluebells are only a 5 minute walk from the parking area.

Neskonlith Meradows 004rMost of the buttercups of our area are sage buttercups, but this area also has subalpine buttercups.

Neskonlith Meradows 007rThe arrow-leaf balsam root can be found all along the Interior grassland belt from Barriere to Oregon in April-May.

Neskonlith Meradows 009rShooting stars are usually not seen until later in May, but in this warm spring, the first ones were spotted in April.

Neskonlith Meradows 014rWe usually find avalanche lilies at higher altitudes, but they are in abundance on the west facing slopes of Neskonlith Meadows.

Neskonlith Meradows 006rIn the previous year, we hiked through the meadows all the way to Aylmer (Star) Lake, but this year, we just walked up to enjoy the Wildflower Show in April.   The next wave of wildflowers will be out in May in the grassland hills, then up in the alpine in July and we will be there to bear witness.


Gone, Goose Gone

We can  bike, run, walk and hike the Goose Lake Road for now.    The route through the grasslands, riparian zone wetlands and forested hills have long been a recreational corridor, especially for cycling.   The road follows the wetlands of Peterson Creek for a few kilometers, habitat for wildlife of the area.

Goose Lake 004rThe grasslands cover the hills on both sides, with the north-facing slopes forested with douglas fir.

Goose Lake 008rAspen and cottonwoods can be found in the wetlands in the valley floor.

Goose Lake 014rAt 7km, Goose Lake is reached.   It is a really a large shallow pond, but is also usually full of waterfowl, especially in spring.

Goose Lake 011rGoose Lake will be gone with the proposed Ajax Mine.   From above Goose Lake down to Peterson Creek will be the center of the mine operations.   Waste rock, tailings storage, a conveyor belt connecting the crusher to the plant,  and mine operations will replace  what we now see.   A map is available for our review – Ajax Mine Map (Update).

It would appear from the map that the Goose Lake Road will no longer be a through-road.   The mine will start a few kilometers from either end of the Road and will fill the entire area with a 15 square kilometer (est.) open pit mine.    Although there is a lot of local opposition to the mine, the Federal Mining Tenure Act lays out a process that makes a new mine an inexorable force if all environmental concerns are met.   The mine will happen, so get out onto the Goose Lake Road while you still can.

On this last spring day bike ride, bluebirds were spotted, perched on fenceposts.   Sandhill cranes flew overhead, working their way north to the Chilcotin.   Ducks filled all the wetlands along the route.   The whole area was quiet and peaceful, a perfect environment for outdoor self-propelled recreation.

Goose Lake 015rSoon it will be…Gone, Goose, Gone.

Coal Reflections

For decades we have been running, hiking, and walking through the upper areas of Coal Hill and the Ironmask Hills.   With the purchase of the lands by the owners of the new mine, there are now some new fences.   There are also some new mountain bike trails, new signage, gates, a kiosk and new vigilance for access to the area.   It used to be an area that we quietly visited and we would never seen anyone, but now there is a lot more activity and defined/designated areas, including no trespassing signs.   Signage is currently being installed indicating seasonal closures (cattle grazing), mine property (no trespassing), and designated bike trails (not really hiking trails).   Hikers, runners, and walkers are somewhat left out of this solution, even though they can still access the bike trails and the old double tracks.   On our most recent hike, we took a wrong turn (unsigned) and encountered scrutiny and criticism on a route we have used for decades.   We will need to adjust our routes and schedules for the future.   Nevertheless it is a fine area to hike (while we can).

Coal Hill 020rThe north slope is forested and the climb up is a good one.   Over the top, grasslands and ponds extend south

Coal Hill 010rFrom viewpoints, a wide panorama extends south and west.   The hills around Goose Lake had started to green.

Coal Hill 006rThere are still a few old dilapidated homesteads in the area.   This root cellar was found on a hillside.

Coal Hill 018rWith the pending mine development, the grasslands, homesteads, and ponds will all be changed, lost to hikers.

Coal Hill 015rChange is a constant and we know we will have to adjust our routes now.

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.” (John Muir)

Hiking the Spines

The Valleyview silt cliffs area has some unique ridges that run north-south, remnants of drainage divides into the glacial lake after the last ice age.   Erosion has narrowed these ridges providing an opportunity for  “spine-walks.”

spines 2rWe started our hike/scramble at the end of Valleyview Drive, following tracks up into the hills.  The ridges run from Juniper northward, down toward the river.

spine pano brBetween the ridges are grassland and forest gullies, where we can often spot wildlife.

Spines 001brThe tops of the ridges are weathered and often bare.   Silf cliffs and clay towers overlook the gullies,

Spines 012rSinkholes can be found in the side gullies and if you know where to look, some surprising landforms can be found like clay arches, wells,  and tunnels.Spines 017r

We went up to the top of each ridge then hiked down to the end on narrow “spines” to the bottom then back up the next, in a double loop covering 6km of up and down rambling.   The area is fun to explore

Wheeler Walkabout

The road through the pass between Mt. Wheeler on the north and Mt. Mara on the south has a block of private property bounded by fences and signs so any east-west travel is not possible without climbing well up the hillsides of either mountain above the fencelines.   We parked on the public road and climbed north up the sagebrush slopes of Mt. Wheeler, working our way to a hidden gem, the old Harris Homestead.

Pruden Pass Loop 012rArchibald and Mary Harris arrived from Scotland and claimed this piece of land in 1912. Archie and his son built and lived in a lean-to shelter while they built their first house, using a cross-cut saw, felling trees found on the property. Once a one-room house was ready, Mary and their daughter moved up from Kamloops. Over time, the house had bedrooms and a sitting added.

The roof has mostly fallen in and will be fully open in the next few years.

Pruden Pass Loop 010rA cow, chickens, and a vegetable patch were the start of farming on the quarter section. A spring running down the gully behind the house provided water and soon up to 4 acres of potatoes were produced. Hay was cut to feed the livestock and horses, pigs, ducks, and cattle were added. Hunting and berry collecting was part of pioneer life on the hill. Cutting wood to sell down in Kamloops, selling eggs and butter at Tranquille or Kamloops, hiring out to build fences or dig fence poles, or whatever opportunities there were kept the family with some cash to overwinter at the site.

Drought after WW1 started a decline in the Wheeler Mountain area. In the 1920’s the drought continued and Archie dug down 40 feet, but could still find no water for a well. They pulled out in 1926 and sold the quarter section to the Bulmans.

Pruden Pass Loop 013rFrom the Harris Homestead site, an old double track leads up the flanks of Wheeler Mountain, then a sidetrack leads south to the tops of lava cliffs, a good spot for lunch.

Pruden Pass Loop 023rViews from the top of the lava flow extend southeast over the Lac du Bois Grasslands. and the north slopes of Mount Mara.

Pruden Pass Loop 024rDirectly south past the private properties of Pruden Pass lies Mount Mara.

Pruden Pass Loop 026rTo get above the fencelines of Pruden Pass, we hiked southwest from the Nature Conservancy down to the Lac du Bois Provincial Park, then up the northwest slopes of Mount Mara.

Halfway-up the treed slopes is an old Chilcotin fence, the quarter section boundary above the private land and the former homestead properties.   Hard-to-find is the remains of the Sorenson Homestead, Swedish emmigrants who arrived in 1912.   The home was later occupied by their neighbors, the Sahlstroms.   The site is up in the north-slope forest under the steep slopes of Mount Mara, but the Sahlstroms had a good well which neighbors also shared.   Homesteading up there would have been a hard life.

Pruden Pass Loop 039rThe roof is no longer in place and the whole area is being reclaimed by the forest.

Pruden Pass Loop 040rWe hiked a loop route, coming down the east side of Mount Mara back into the grasslands.   We were respectful of posted private property signs, quarter section boundaries, the heritage value of old ruined buildings, the returning-to-nature lands of the Nature Conservancy, and we were mindful of leave-no trace principles.   This is not an area for ATVs, motorcycles, hunters, or partiers.   We quietly passed through the forest and along the slopes, leaving nothing behind but our footprints.