Lafarge to Kamloops Paddle

The South Thompson River from Chase to Kamloops provides excellent downriver paddling.   We can divide the river route into 3 sections (based on accessible launch/landing sites) – Chase to Pritchard, Pritchard to Lafarge, and Lafarge to downtown Kamloops.   We paddled from Lafarge to Pioneer Park in mid-June.

The paddling is all easy and the only issue is avoiding a lot of powerboats.   By getting an early start, we were able to avoid most of the motorized traffic.   Most boat owners are considerate and slow down when passing canoes and kayaks (but not all).   The silt cliffs rise above the shores of the river.

Lafarge to Pioneer 006rThere are many riverfront homes in Dallas and Valleyview.   Behind them, Sunrise Mountain stands among the wispy clouds over the south shore of the river.

Lafarge to Pioneer 008rMt. Peter and Paul stand over the north side of the river as we approach downtown Kamloops.

Lafarge to Pioneer 009rThe river section is 20km from the launch area next to the Lafarge Bridge to the boat launch at Pioneer Park.   We are very lucky to have two rivers running downstream to the “meeting of the waters,” making fine downriver paddling for us from March to November.

 

Wopax

We hike the trail to the western rim of Opax Mountain (Wopax) every year and try to vary the season we go up the 15km return route.   It takes a bit of careful navigating on the top to go out to the right spot, especially with all the fallen trees along the old double tracks.   Now that the route goes through the Nature Conservancy of Canada lands, gates have blocked out ATV’s and trucks.   This is a good thing.   The route is best suited for hiking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing and we would like to keep it that way.

From Lac du Bois the route follows the double track on the north side of the lake into Hanging Valley.   The old track going up the hill is getting harder to see, especially when the grass grows high in the spring.   It winds up the side of Opax Mountain to the wide plateau above.   From there, we bear west, but it is best to go with someone who knows the route.   It ends at the open top of cliffs overlooking Tranquille Canyon.

Some waypoints are provided here for the route:

  • Turn up the hill – N50 48.136 W120 28.479
  • Follow the double track up the hill
  • Turn left (west) at N50 47.716 W120 40.152
  • Continue west to the area near N50 47.627 W120 31.172

Wopax 001brThe views extend south and west (you can wind around the rim to get a north view too).

Wopax 002rThe western edge of Opax is mostly open and dry.   Wispy clouds were moving over the trees.

Wopax 010rOn the way back along the upper slopes, Lac du Bois can be seen nestled in the upper grasslands.

Wopax 013rWe hope to do a snowshoe of this route this upcoming winter.   Watch for our tracks.

Nimpo Lake

It was raining on the West Chilcotin Plateau.   While traveling east on Highway 20 there was a break in the weather right at Nimpo Lake, so I found a boat launch and paddled out into the quiet lake.   There was no wind and no other boats on this larger lake.

Nimpo 002rIt is too big a lake to go all the way around (27km) so I chose a loop through the middle, going around 3 islands.   Birds kept me company along the shoreline and loons were on the hunt on the lake.

Nimpo 009The Coast Range was in sight 30 km to the west, and the Itcha Ilgachuz Range could be seen 40km to the north, but the terrain of the area is mostly trees on a rolling plateau at 3700 feet.

Nimpo LakeNimpo Lake is the Floatplane Capital of B.C. but no planes took off or landed until after I was finished paddling.   It is a destination fishing area and there are a number of resort accommodations on the lake, though all were quiet on a weekday in June.   I scouted out some more lakes for exploration in a kayak – Charlotte Lake, Tatla Lake, Punzi Lake, Tatlayoko Lake, and a lot of smaller lakes too, all earmarked for future trips.

Birch Bluffs Rim Trail

The Birch Bluffs Rim Trail is a side trail from the official BC Parks Moul Falls Trail.   Just above Moul Falls is a bridge that crosses over onto private property owned by the Neaves.   Hikers may cross the bridge and then veer west to the brink of the falls and beyond to the Birch Rim.   Mindful that the first section is across private property, we should tread lightly and respectfully.

Wells Grays 096rThe trail goes out to the top of edge of the cliffs overlooking the Clearwater River and follows it north to Coal Creek Falls and beyond.   A junction goes down to McDiarmid Falls lower down on Grouse Creek and to the Clearwater River.

Wells Grays 111McDiarmid Falls can’t be seen from Moul Falls, but it is worth the additional hike over and down.

Wells Grays 113rBelow the falls the trail goes down to the river and carries on north along the river past the H.R. McMillan Cabin and eventually links to the Hemp Creek Canyonlands trails via the Flatiron Trail.

The Birch Bluffs Rim Trail stays on top of the cliffs all the way to Coal Creek Falls.   From the bridge to the falls and back is about 9km of hiking and if we start at the Moul Falls trailhead, the whole route would be about 14km, but it is fairly level and quite scenic, a good choice for a hike on a nice day.

Wells Grays 101rThe trail is a bit rough, it follows close to the cliffs’ edge, and there may be some fallen trees along the route so it may not be suitable for children or pets.  We were fortunate enough to have Roland Neave lead us on the trail.   For more information, check out Roland’s book Exploring wells Gray Park.

 

Bella Coola and Back

The drive to Bella Coola and back has long been a call-to-explore and a week was set aside into the calendar for the tour.   It is 740 km each way so I got an early start on a Monday morning.   The road is paved all the way to Anaheim Lake so I proceeded along the route, stopping for gas as needed.   The gravel section started just before Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and there were no vehicles along the upper section of the park.   The weather was fine and I stopped at some trailheads in the park to scout out future hikes.   Wide views were impressive at the top of Heckman Pass and I proceeded carefully down the Big Hill.   I was happy the road was dry and I wasn’t pulling a trailer on this daunting 16 km section of road.

The Bella Coolla Valley was impressive with steep-sided mountains all around, glaciers and snowfields above, and waterfalls and creeks entering the valley into the Atnarko and Bella Coola Rivers. All of the campgrounds in Tweedsmuir were still closed and there were no vehicles at all in the upper valley.   This is a coastal cedar-hemlock wet coastal zone forest with fast-flowing streams and dense green forest.

In the middle part of the valley, Hagensborg is a small community with Norwegian immigrant history.   There were some services, regional parks, and a nice ambience to the area.   Coming into Bella Coola was a bit surprising.    The community is in a beautiful setting, but seemed a bit run-down.  I drove past the town out to the Government dock where the ferry used to land, then beyond to a small regional park for a view out the North Bentick Arm.

Bella Coola Trip 013r

I drove through the town and looked for a gas station.   The one gas station was closed and though I wanted to stay in Bella Coola, I had to drive back up the valley where I ended up paying $3.84 a litre!   A big disincentive to staying in town. I decided to looked for a camping spot near the western edge of Tweedsmuir Park.   I spotted this this old homestead along the way.

Bella Coola Trip 004r

I had noted some possible camping spots on the western side of Tweedsmuir Park and I settled on a spot by Burnt Bridge Creek, very near the end of the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail.

Bella Coola Trip 017rThe weather was mostly clear on day one.   The moon was shining over the Coast Range in the middle of the night..

Bella Coola Trip 020rAn early morning start and choices to make – paddle in the Bentick Arm or on a Chilcotin Lake?   The weather was changing and I didn’t want to drive the Big Hill in the rain, so I made the decision to head east.  The Big Hill is very steep, unpaved, and has drop-offs at the shoulder all the way to the valley floor 4000 feet below.   I carefully drove the 16km section to the top at Heckman Pass. At the top is a viewpoint back across the Coast Range above the Bella Coola Valley.

Bella Coola Trip 021rThe upper part of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park has high (5000 feet) wet meadows and small lakes.

Bella Coola Trip 002rThe plan for the day was to hike the first part of the Rainbow Range Trail in the morning.

Bella Coola Trip 023rJust before the trailhead, I spotted two silver-backed grizzly bears stumping along the meadows not far from where I had planned to hike.   There were no other vehicles around and I was hiking alone.   So, I drove on.

It started to rain west of Anaheim Lake.   I chose to drive east to attempt to outrun the weather. At Nimpo Lake, the weather cleared a bit so I found a boat launch and paddled for 2 hours on this peaceful lake.

Nimpo 009rAt the end of this pleasant paddle, the weather started to deteriorate.   The plan was to turn down to Tatloyoko Lake to hike, paddle, and camp for a day or two.  When I reached the turn-off, the rains had resumed, but more heavily now so rather than tent in the rain, I continued east.   The weather really came in after that.

My plan to paddle Charlotte Lake, Tatla Lake, and Tatloyoko Lake and to hike around Tatloyoko was rained out.   I continued east.  At Riske Creek I turned down toward Farwell Canyon.   The roads were muddy by this time and I passed quite a few loaded logging trucks.  I stopped at the Sheep Junction Park trailhead and went for a walk along the track, but the rain discouraged any further exploration.   This will be a return bike/hike.

Farwell Canyon was in a grey weather zone, but it was nice to see the hoodoos above the Chilco River.

Bella Coola Trip 029rIn the end, I drove all the way home.   The planned 5 day trip to Bella Coola and the Chilcotin took only 2 days.   It rained for the next day and a half after that.   The road trip was quick, but it was fun to see all the villages, Reserves, ranches, rivers, lakes, and mountains along the way.   This became a “scouting trip” for a return (summer) trip to hike and paddle sometime in the future.