Castle Butte Scramble

When we go to the Dewdrop Range, the Red Plateau Escarpment rises 2200 feet above.   The reddish, ragged cliffs are the result of a lava flow.   After thousands of years of weathering, the rock has become cracked, rotten and loose.   Outcrops are rough and unreliable, talus and scree slopes are unstable,  and all hiking up the escaprment is a challenging scramble.

Dewdrop Arch Scramble 033rWe have hiked up the Dewdrop Trail to get to the top for decades, but we had heard that it is possible to scramble all the way up to the top so we went straight up to the Dewdrop Arch and through it (article), then turned out eyes upward to the top of Castle Butte.

Dewdrop Arch Scramble 019rBy winding around steep and difficult cliff bands, we were able to work out way to the base of the final cliffs.   It looked impossible to complete the scramble with steep cliffs above.

Dewdrop Arch Scramble 020rWe decided to contour around the cliffs to the right side.   There is one steep sidehill section but once we turned the corner, we found a series of ramps and ledges that brought us around to the upper east side of the butte meeting the trail from the north which goes to the top.   We had lunch on top of Castle Butte, enjoying the views.

Dewdrop Arch Scramble 023rThe Dewdrop Range continues west above Kamloops Lake.

Dewdrop Arch Scramble 024rThe Dewdrop Trail used to be a loop.   A trail went down a wooded gully on the west end of the Escarpment and continued to the Dewdrop Range at the bottom, avoiding all cliffs and rock.    We could find small sections of it, but nature has reclaimed the trail and now it is a good route, but overgrown and slow-going.   Blue clematis was in bloom in the cool, shady forest of the gully.   A small stream also flowed down much of the route.   We spotted a lynx which ran across the slopes away from the intruders.

Dewdrop Arch Scramble 030rAt the bottom, we left the gully and traversed the grasslands back to our vehicles.   The loop is a slow one, requiring careful route choices and focused progress across difficult terrain, only for those with lots of scrambling experience and a love for exploration.

Clearwater Lake Loop

One of the best paddling destinations we try to do every year is Clearwater Lake.   The boat launch is at the very end of the Wells Gray Corridor Road.   Beyond the launch is 22km of  wilderness lake with treed shorelines and snow-capped mountains rising above.   Along the shoreline are a few wilderness marine campsites.   We have enjoyed going to the far end of Azure Lake and paddling back 45km over several days.    For a day trip, though, we head up the lake past the curving eastern shoreline below Easter Bluffs.

Clearwater Lake 003rOnce we have gone up the lake a few kilometers, the views start to open up.   We can see Mt. Huntley at the end of the lake.    Azure Lake lies beneath the mountain and to the northeast.   It drains into Clearwater Lake by a short section of the Clearwater River.

Clearwater Lake 004rIf the winds cooperate, we go up the lake and then cross to the other side to Divers Bluff.   This is the deepest part of the lake.   Campers at the marine campsite there sometimes dive off the bluffs into the lake on a warm summer day.   There is a 1.5km trail to the top of the bluffs too.   We landed on the beach for lunch.   The bay there is sheltered from the winds coming down the lake.

Clearwater Lake 015rWe returned down the lake back along the western shoreline.   Thunder heads started to form over Chain Meadows and the Easter Bluffs in the boat launch area.

Clearwater Lake 018rPaddling Clearwater Lake is best done in a seaworthy kayak or canoe.   Winds often come up in the afternoon and it can be more challenging.    We stay close to the shoreline when the winds come down the lake.

Clearwater Lake 026brOn this day we had tailwinds helping us back to the launch, but a thundershower burst over the last leg, bringing hail and rain.

The route up the shoreline to Divers Bluff and back is about 13km, taking about 3 hours.   There are two beaches at campsites along the route and we spotted two other small beaches for potential landing spots too.   Small waterfalls and streams enter the lake from both sides.   We paddled this loop in May when there were no power boats on the lake.   The only sounds were the calls of birds and a few rumblings of thunder.   We will be back for an extended paddle on Clearwater Lake.

Through the Arch

In previous hikes, we had found a good route to the hilltop above Dewdrop Arch (article), but we had never scrambled up into the Arch until recently.

We drove out the Frederick Road across the Dewdrop Range and turned right at the fork.   We followed the rough road for 0.6 km and parked off to the side with the Arch in view to the northeast.   We took a straight line and worked our way up through cliff bands and rock slopes to a narrow gully below the arch, about 900 vertical feet of rough hiking.   The route winds through a series of rock bands with loose material.

Dewdrop Arch Scramble 006rBelow the arch, we proceeded up the bottom of the gully.   Loose rock makes the route more dangerous.

Dewdrop Arch Scramble 007rThe final section is a vertical climb, so we brought a good rope as a handline support.   Only one person can climb at a time because of the potential for rockfall.   The top is a narrow ledge between two drop-offs so care must be taken even after finishing the climb through the arch.

Dewdrop Arch Scramble 011rThe view through the arch is best seen by straddling the narrow ridge at the top.

Dewdrop Arch Scramble 016rFrom the upper side of the arch, we climbed up onto the hilltop.   Fine views are found there, a good spot for lunch.

Dewdrop Arch Scramble 008rA flagged route/rough trail goes down the west side of the hill all the way down to the grasslands below, providing a loop route of about 3km.   On this last occasion, we chose to climb higher to the top of Castle Butte, featured in another story to follow.

Greenstone Mountain Tour

There is a small provincial park (link) on top of Greenstone Mountain.   There are also at least 5 communications towers, a good road to the top, and an old forestry lookout.

Greenstone Mountain 018rThe summit at 5900 feet has a few rocky knolls, all with fine views.   There is mixed forest of spruce, lodgepole pine, aspen, and fir.   Below are some standing remnants of the Greenstone Mountain forest fire of 1998, but most of the damaged area has been successfully replanted.   Below the replanted area are grasslands.

Greenstone Mountain 012rThe old forestry lookout has been rebuilt and cleaned up by local snowmobile and motorcycle groups.

Greenstone Mountain 019rThe road to the top is km long and it is in good shape all the way to the top.   The last kilometre requires slower driving, but in May it was fine for 2WD vehicles.   We parked at a pullout area near the first and larges set of communications towers, then walked the double track across the top.   There were still snow drifts in the sheltered areas.   The last short section is a single track to the lookout.

Greenstone Mountain 021rThere are 360 degree views from the viewpoints.   Kamloops Lake lies 4800 feet lower to the northwest.

Greenstone Mountain 024rWe can go up and down the knolls and ridges at the top for a short hike.   There are also number of small lakes that can be visited.

Greenstone Mountain 016r

Kwilalkwila Lake west of the summit
Greenstone Mountain 008r

Grace Lake, east of the summit

Forestry roads lead off Greenstone south and southeast.   The road to Dominic Lake heads off to the left near the summit.   It is a rough high clearance road and is prone to deadfall, but it does lead over to the high plateau of lakes.   A better road is the Chuwhels Lake Forest Service Road (junction at N50 35.446 W120 36.037).   It is in good shape and we can access a chain of small lakes in the trench between Greenstone and Chuwhels Mountains.   Chuwhels Lake is a popular fishing spot.   There were eagles and loons at the lake, a good sign that the lake is healthy.   I also ran into a big black bear as I hiked in to the lake.   High clearance vehicles can drive right in, but the route in is an enjoyable short hike.  I spotted a hare in the aspens too.   Beyond Chuwhels the road is good for a few more kilometres as it passes a number of small lakes and cutblocks.   The road in the bottom of the drainage goes go right through to Face Lake, but the last section is outrageously rough, suitable only to 4WDs with a chainsaw and winch.   It appears that some of the branch roads may also go through to the Paska-Dominic Road too, an exploration for another day.

Greenstone Mountain 027r

unnamed lake between Face Lake and Chuwhels Lake
Greenstone Mountain 001rNed Roberts Lake at the foot of Greenstone

Many of the branch roads are worth exploring.   There are numerous ATV tracks and the area is used mostly by snowmobiles and motorcycles but mountain bikers and hikers can also enjoy the backroads.

Kamloops Lake Loop

To paddle Kamloops Lake we can launch from Savona, Tobiano, or Cooney Bay.   For those in a kayak or canoe, we drive past Tranquille, staying left at Tranquille on the Lake, following a bumpy road for 1 km down to the parking area.

The trail to Cooney Bay has a number of large fallen trees down now so it is now single file down to the gravel beach.

Cooney Bay and Beyond 036rThe loop we choose to do varies each time, but for the first time of the season, we usually paddle around the corner past the outlet of Tranquille River and then along the beach,  following the contour of Cooney Bay and then we head west along the rocky shoreline out to Battle Bluff.   On this day, there was little wind so the hills reflected into the calm lake.

Cooney Bay and Beyond 024rThe dramatic cliffs of Battle Bluff make an interesting paddling destination.

Cooney Bay and Beyond 012rIf the winds are light, we cross the lake just past Battle Bluff.   Crossing Kamloops Lake is best done in a seaworthy kayak and only on a calm day.

Cooney Bay and Beyond 022rBattle Bluff is part of the Dewdrop Range and Red Plateau rises above on the north side of Kamloops Lake.

Conney panorThe crossing is 1.7 km.   The south shoreline of Kamloops Lake also has a steep, rocky profile.  The CPR constructed tunnels, stone trestles, and reinforced ledges for the railbed.   Quarried rock was brought in by railcar in 1884 and 1885.   Engineers, masons, and laborers built a number of stone structures along the lakeshore.

Cooney Bay and Beyond 030rThe most interesting is this stone arch, hidden out of sight in a small bay.

Cooney Bay and Beyond 033rPaddling east along the south shore of the lake, we suddenly come to shallow water.    In the spring, the river and the lake are all one, but in the late summer, there is a wide sandbar where the Thompson River empties into Kamloops Lake.

Mount Mara and Lac du Bois Provincial Park stand above the shores of the river as we paddle back to Cooney Bay and the launch spot.   The scenic loop is 11-12 km.

Cooney Bay and Beyond 035rThe scenic loop is 11-12 km.   Watch the weather and pick a day with light winds.   On most days the winds pick up about 11:30 in the morning so get an early start.